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Writing Tips: 290 - 300

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These tips provided by: http://www.basic-learning.com

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Tip # 290: Correlative conjunctions (both….and, either….or, neither…..nor, not only….but also, whether….or, etc,) should be followed by elements in parallel form.

Not correct: James is not only gifted as a painter but also as a sculptor. Correct: James is gifted not only as a painter but also as a sculptor.

Not correct: She would neither apologize nor would she promise to reform. Correct: She would neither apologize nor promise to reform. Correct: She would not apologize, nor would she promise to reform.

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Please answer Verlena Stewart's question:

Which is correct, in or on? "With no break in the financial trend, Middletown City Council directed staff to focus (in or on) four areas:"

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Last week's exercise: Which of the following is correct: "Hold on to the past" or "Hold onto the past"? Please explain. *****

Suggested answers:

Hold on to the past. The reason is "on" is part of the verb phrase" to the past." "Onto" is a preposition that implies movement toward and then over.

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"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Thomas Edison, inventor





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Tip #291: Use the phrase "the reason is that" not "the reason is because."

For example: "The reason for such low sales is that (not because) prices are too high."

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Which is correct and why?

1. These improvements in benefits under the company dental plan will be retroactive to December 31, 2004. 2. These improvements in benefits under the company dental plan will be retroactive from December 31, 2004.

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Last week's exercise:

Please answer Verlena Stewart's question: Which is correct, in or on? "With no break in the financial trend, Middletown City Council directed staff to focus (in or on) four areas: *****

Suggested Answer:

"With no break in the financial trend, Middletown City Council directed staff to focus on four areas.

You focus "on" a subject.

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"If you don't know where you are going," the Scarecrow said to Dorothy, "it doesn't matter which road you take." (From "The Wizard of Oz")





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Tip # 292: Some expressions that originally contained proper nouns or adjectives are now considered common nouns and should not be capitalized.

Here are some examples: texas leaguer, arabic numbers, roman numerals, bone china. (MS Word and some dictionaries may not like this.)

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Correct the errors in capitalization in the following sentences:

1. I saw Helene at the Post Office yesterday. 2. Dr. Lawton is a Professor at the university of Maryland. 3. Some Senators have boycotted the session. 4. The Boulevard at Sunset Drive was crowded.

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Last week's exercise: Which is correct and why?

1. These improvements in benefits under the company dental plan will be retroactive to December 31, 2004. 2. These improvements in benefits under the company dental plan will be retroactive from December 31, 2004. ******

Suggested answer.

The word that confuses these sentences is "retroactive." The meaning of "retroactive" is "going into effect as of a certain date in the past." Therefore, sentence 2 would be correct. Sentence 1 would have made sense if the date were 2003. The choice of words in a sentence help to clarify your meaning. I would have substituted the word " retroactive" for a phrase such as " will go into effect…"

In business writing, clarity is more important than brevity.

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"It's strange that words are so inadequate. Yet, like the asthmatic struggling for breath, so the lover must struggle for words." (T.S. Eliot)





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Tip # 293: Individual - party- person - people: When do you use these words? Use the word "individual" to refer to someone you wish to distinguish from a larger group of people; use "party" to refer to someone involved in a legal proceeding; use "person" to refer to a human being in all other contexts; use "people" when referring to a large group.

Examples:

We will honor those individuals who have served our country.

The parties addressed in the original document must sign the amendment.

Name the person in charge of your financial department.

Give me a list of all the people in our corporation.

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Please answer the following questions for Mike Goronsky who asks these two questions:

1. What does 'it's all relative' mean, and could you give an example?

2. What does 'it's all academic' mean when referring to the closing moments of a specified sporting event?

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Last week's exercise: Correct the errors in capitalization in the following sentences:

1. I saw Helene at the Post Office yesterday. 2. Dr. Lawton is a Professor at the university of Maryland. 3. Some Senators have boycotted the session. 4. The Boulevard at Sunset Drive was crowded. ****

Answers: 1. I saw Helene at the post office yesterday. 2. Dr. Lawton is a professor at the University of Maryland. 3. Some senators have boycotted the session. 4. The boulevard at Sunset Drive was crowded.

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"You don't have to blow out the other fellow's light to let your own shine." (Bernard M. Baruch, U.S. businessman)





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Tip #294: "Dilemma" vs. "quandary": Both words mean "to have difficulty deciding something." However, use "dilemma" when deciding between two options; use "quandary" when deciding three or more objects or ideas.

Example: The dilemma was whether to attend or not to attend the seminar. Jim was in a quandary over the variety of choices.

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Weekly exercise:

Reduce the wordiness in the following sentence:

We want to call your attention to the fact that quite a lot of our customers have expressed their unhappiness to us about the decrease in the level of quality of the kind of paper you've switched to in the manufacture of your product.

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Last week's questions: Please answer the following questions for Mike Goronsky who asks these two questions:

1. What does 'it's all relative' mean, and could you give an example? 2. What does 'it's all academic' mean when referring to the closing moments of a specified sporting event? ********

Suggested answers:

Kent Butler, Puzzlemaster:

1. What does 'it's all relative' mean, and could you give an example?

The two most common implications are: A. The fact under discussion, or the hoped-for outcome, depend upon other factors not necessarily in evidence. B. It is a matter of one's perspective.

2. What does 'it's all academic' mean when referring to the closing moments of a specified sporting event?

The outcome has already been determined, and the current effort will not change it.

Example: A football team, behind by two touchdowns, frantically trying to manage the remaining 58 seconds of the game. ******

Here is another explanation for number 2. from Nicole Coulter:

2. "It's all academic" means that nothing done or said is going to change the outcome; essentially, it refers to futile, arcane debate (much like the chatter that goes on in the halls of academia ;-)

Ex: The Patriots vehemently protested the holding penalty, but the squabble was all academic, with the scoreboard showing a 35-7 deficit and only 20 seconds remaining in the contest.

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"Flexible people never get bent out of shape." (Anonymous)





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Tip # 295: Always use a Subject that identifies what you are writing about in your e-mail messages. With all of the SPAM today, if you leave the subject line blank, your e-mail may go into the recipient's trash. Many people, including us at Basic Learning Systems, Inc., scan the Subjects of questionable e-mails in order to avoid getting a virus.

Therefore, always have a Subject for your subject line and make it meaningful.

********************************************************* Your Quiz this week:

Send me an informational email that gives me the city and country where you live, your profession, your job title and how you like my weekly tips. I am not interested in more personal information, and this is just to test your email writing skills. This information will go no further than my computer.

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Last week's exercise:

Reduce the wordiness in the following sentence:

We want to call your attention to the fact that quite a lot of our customers have expressed their unhappiness to us about the decrease in the level of quality of the kind of paper you've switched to in the manufacture of your product. ******

Suggested answer:

Many customers are unhappy with the lower quality paper you're now using in your product. ******

Mary McLaughlin suggests: We have heard from several customers who are unhappy with the poor quality of the paper you are now using in your product. ******

Linda Dodge suggests: Please be aware that many of our customer are unhappy with the quality of paper now being used. ******

Dan Woodland suggests: Since the switch to a lower quality of paper used to manufacture your product, many customers have expressed their unhappiness. ********

Pamela Flores, Ph.D. suggests: Customers dislike the new paper.

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Thanks to Gregory Stofer who pointed out that the verb in the explanation for exercise in Tip # 294 should be "depends" not "depend".

It should have read: "A. The fact under discussion, or the hoped-for outcome, depends upon other factors not necessarily in evidence."

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"When your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt." (Henry Kaiser, Industrialist)





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Tip #296: Educators should not use educational jargon with parents. Here are a few of those educational terms and acronyms that can confuse you:

ESE = Exceptional Student Education. ESE has its own large sub-dialect of terms, including: EH (emotionally handicapped), LD (learning disabled), and gifted.

FTE = Full-time equivalence (one student, or several parts of students that add up to one whole student, used to determine how much money the state gives a school district).

Outcome based education = Teaching to the test.

Zero budget impact = It doesn't cost anything.

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Please answer this.

Here's a question found on Purdue University's Owl News for Jan. 27, 2004: Please explain the difference between "except" and "except for?"

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Last week's exercise: Send me an informational email that gives me the city and country where you live, your profession, your job title and how you like my weekly tips. I am not interested in more personal information, and this is just to test your email sending skills. This information will go no further than my computer. *******

Thank you to all who shared their information and comments. Here are some I would like to share with you. I am so pleased to find that people from so many countries are receiving my tips. ******

Robert comments: Firstly, you'll notice that I've left the subject as an "RE" version of yours. This continues the thread and, from the overview of your inbox, allows you to see all replies to your email of the same subject. It also makes following threads a whole lot easier.

Secondly, the information you requested: I live in Cape Town in South Africa. While your tips aren't directly related to my job, I enjoy my "Monday" lesson on English usage.

Thirdly, something you'll note in emails is that most people assume that since it's an email, people don't care about spelling, grammar and politeness. This is, of course, quite incorrect. *******

Hajar comments: I am among those who read and use your notes. They are great! Not only do I use them for myself, but also I am planning to use them for my students. I teach grammar to the students who want to take part in MA entrance exam in Iran. ******

Diane comments: I work at a college in Rockville about 20 miles from Washington, D.C., in the United States. I must constantly communicate with our diverse student population. Your weekly tips are not only informative, but the exercises are frequently challenging as well. It is nice to know that the "thinking cap" still fits. *******

Ozlem comments: I live in Istanbul, in Turkey. Although, on my Diploma my profession is stated as "translator", currently I am dealing with import & export. I am quite fond of your weekly tips. I believe that you give me an opportunity to develop my writing skills and I am grateful to you.

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Good News: Our web site is listed in Dave Sperling's Guide to the Internet's Best Resources according to ESL Magazine. See our listing under" Business Writing" in Sperling's Guide.

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"In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield." (Warren Buffett, businessman)





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Tip # 297: E-mail suggestion:

Be careful with punctuation. A lot of periods can separate thoughts..... but use a lot of exclamation marks and it looks like you're angry!!!!!!!!!! and how does it look when I use a lot of question marks??????? Again, you might not intend strong emotion, but the other person might think you do.

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Which is correct--users guide or user's guide? Explain why.

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Last week's exercise: Please answer this.

Here's a question found on Purdue University's Owl News for Jan. 27, 2004: Please explain the difference between "except" and "except for?" *****

Answer: "Except" should be used without a preposition when it begins a noun phrase, e.g., "All students except those with a failing grade will be admitted."

When "except" functions as a conjunction, the addition of "for" is acceptable. "No one will be admitted late except for extreme emergencies." *****

Other comments:

Karen Wavering commented: I am confused about today's question: . Please explain the difference between "except" and "except for?" Why the question mark? If the question mark is correct, shouldn't the quote mark be outside the question mark? (You are correct. I did not need to use the question mark. However, if you do use an end question mark, it should be placed inside the quotation mark.)

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Reference the term "FTE": Dick Gober commented: This term is also frequently used in the business world, especially in firms or organizations that allow "job sharing" or those that have a large number of part time employees.

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"The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one has to do." (James M. Barrie)





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Tip #298: When sending e-mails, be considerate with length. Too much information in one message is a burden on the receiver. Bear in mind that screens are harder to read than words on paper.

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Delete the unnecessary words in the following:

1. A more thoughtful and considered ranking and ordering of our long-term goals are both necessary and essential.

2. The CEO asks and requests that we evaluate and assess the potential impact and effect of the information before distributing and promulgating it.

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Last week's exercise: Which is correct--users guide or user's guide? Explain why. *****

My suggested answer: Choose "user's guide" if it is a guide belonging to a user (a guide "of" the user, "his or her guide") and "users guide" if it is a guide "for" users ("a users guide is packaged with your new computer.") *****

Other suggested answers:

Lyn Nurick comments: In this instance, I believe that "users guide" would be the correct grammar, although many people might opt for the alternative answer. The same would probably apply to "childrens club" rather than "children's club". Is it a club for children, or does the club belong to the children? *****

Richard Cochrane comments: I would go with users' guide. Surely the apostrophe shows possession and in this case, it is not limited to just one user (user's) but many users (users'). I think we in South Africa speak a slightly different version of English ("petrol" instead of "gas", "boot" instead of "trunk", etc.), but I think this use of apostrophes applies to all versions of English. *****

Gloria Huerta comments: I vote for user's guide. The use of this word dictates that it be used in the possessive form. In the second choice, there is no possessive form.

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Comments from last week: Karen Wavering corrected me again on the use of the question mark in this sentence: Please explain the difference between "except" and "except for?"

The sentence is not a question. If it were a question, note where the question mark would go: "What is the difference between "except" and "except for"? The entire sentence is a question.

Thanks, Karen. I welcome your comments, especially if I need to be corrected.

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"You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too." (Sam Rayburn, former Speaker of the House, USA)



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Tip #299: Avoid using the word "it" in an inexplicit way. For example:

Do not use: In the pamphlet, it suggests selling the stock before it decreases.

Do use: The pamphlet suggests selling the stock before it decreases.

However, "it" can be used as an expletive or word used to fill out a sentence such as: "It was a good idea to sell that stock."

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Rewrite the passive sentences so they are written in active voice:

1. The evaluation is generally accomplished through a team effort. 2. Any improvements will be shown by a needs assessment. 3. The new publication is being prepared by the reproduction department.

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Last week's exercise: Delete the unnecessary words in the following:

1. A more thoughtful and considered ranking and ordering of our long-term goals are both necessary and essential.

2. The CEO asks and requests that we evaluate and assess the potential impact and effect of the information before distributing and promulgating it. ******

Suggested answers:

1. A more thoughtful ranking of our long-term goals are necessary. 2. The CEO asks that we evaluate the potential impact of the information before distributing it. ******

Leila 's answer: 1. We need to consider how to rank our long-term goals. 2. The CEO asks us to assess the potential impact of the information to be promulgated. *****

Linda Kleinschmidt comments:

Re this week's comments by your readers, I noticed the following:

"I believe that "users guide" would be the correct grammar, although many people might opt for the alternative answer. The same would probably apply to "childrens club" rather than "children's club". Is it a club for children, or does the club belong to the children?"

Children is already plural so there is no such form as "childrens." You can't make a noun MORE plural. In the same light, I'd probably choose "users' guide" with an apostrophe since most guides are used by more than a single person. Another viable choice could be User Guide where "user" is used as an adjective. This choice would work well where the writer wanted a more sleek look and didn't want to use the formal apostrophe. *****

Marcia Duckworth comments: In reference to Tip #298: When sending e-mails, be considerate with length. Too much information in one message is a burden on the receiver. Bear in mind that screens are harder to read than words on paper:

You are, of course, correct in that e-mails should be directly to the point in order to make the best use of this medium. However, a study has shown that children born after 1980, and especially those born after 1985, process information much more readily and easily from a screen than from a book (words on paper). I wish I knew who did this survey. This fact was presented to me by the president of Drew Seminary.

I have noticed that I now read and process information more readily from the computer screen than from the written word, surely as a product of the forced use of it in my work - and I was born in 1952! Old dog, new trick!

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"The uncreative mind can spot the wrong answer, but it takes a creative mind to spot the wrong question." (Anthony Jay)


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Tip # 300: Summarize long e-mail messages. If you are writing a long message, start with an "executive summary" to help your reader. This applies to all lengthy written correspondence.

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Please answer Rhoda Wong's question:

Would you have some guidelines on when yes or no in answering is appropriate? I often think to say "no" if the answering statement verb is negative and "yes" when the verb is positive. However, this seems to create confusion when it is seen as not answering the question itself. The answer could be yes or no depending on the question and does not always match the negative or positive verb in my response. Have I got it wrong? For example:

Q. Are you not going to the movies?

A1. Yes, I am not going to the movies.

A2. No, I am not going to the movies.

A3. Yes, I am going to the movies.

A4. No, I am going to the movies.

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Last week's exercise: Rewrite the passive sentences so they are written in active voice: 1. The evaluation is generally accomplished through a team effort. 2. Any improvements will be shown by a needs assessment. 3. The new publication is being prepared by the reproduction department. *****

Suggested answers:

1. We usually use a team for our evaluation. 2. A needs assessment will show any improvements. 3. The reproduction department will prepare the new publication. *****

Russ Sporer commented: KUDOS to Marcia Duckworth for the info which indicates people born after 1980 are more facile reading data on computer screens than the older folks. This is something I've always thought but never verified. I'd love to see the source of her statement.

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Correction: Last week's suggested answer should be : A more thoughtful ranking of our long-term goals is necessary.

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"A leader is best when people barely know he exists…when his work is done and his aim fulfilled, they will all say 'We did it ourselves.'" (Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism)





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