Over last weekend, I’ll bet many of you, like me, were busy packing away ornaments, deciding which candles can be used again, and trying to find a youth organization to give our retired trees to for recycling. Or at least, again, like me – thinking about it!

And now it’s serious back-to-work time. Time to try something new. I’m not quite ready for 2014 yet – what happened to 2010, anyway? So, with a final salute, let’s wrap up 2013 with the Best of the Blog – a short collection of my top nineteen posts of that year, as judged by the number of “likes” each garnered. An “e-book” for want of a better name, and the first e-book I’ve ever done. Please email me (gail@gailtycer.com), and I’ll send you the free link.

I’d like to give this compilation to you as a thought-starter. A new way of thinking about your writing. Or maybe as a way to address a New Year’s resolution to strengthen your on-the-job writing, making it faster, easier, and more effective. Totally free. No advertising, no name collecting, no strings. Please email me (gail@gailtycer.com), and I’ll send you the free link.

We’ll talk about:

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

How Many Common Writing Errors Do You Make?

Let’s talk a bit about grammar and usage errors today. Can you find the errors in the following three sentences?Gail Tycer wordpress wordle

1. Woodland Caribou: Less than 65 roam America’s mountains and mesas.

2. As soon as they get the test scores back, her or her assistant will call you

3. They thought living in Canada would be a lot different than living in Portland, Oregon.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ANSWERS

Hope you’ve enjoyed this short quiz. If you’d like to test yourself further, visit our archives:

http://www.businesswritingzone.com/freeresources/writingquiz.shtml

Published in: on December 9, 2013 at 12:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Business Writing and Free Samples?

It was one of those glorious early spring days. A day to take your kids, or maybe your grandkids, someplace they love to go. To do something you all love to do. We looked at each other, and with one voice shouted, “Lunch at Costco!”Free Samples

Of course it could have been any other wholesale grocery warehouse, or for that matter, any other grocery store, but Costco is the closest to us, and they offer a gracious plenty of just what we were looking for. So what makes this grocery store so special on Saturdays? The menu.

That’s right: the menu! But…

The menu is terrific! Your choice of exquisite appetizers; magnificent main courses; beneficent beverages; and delightful desserts! There are cheeses from distant places, and handmade domestic cheese from closer by. Breads from artisan bakeries. Foods we’ve never tasted, from exotic places whose very names may be new to us. And the best part of it all? We can have all of them. We can taste each of them. Free!

They are all there in bountiful plenty: Free Samples! And if you like them, they are available. Just buy them and take them home. They are yours.

So what is so special about free samples, and what do free samples have to do with business writing?

Everything you write is a free sample.

“Free Samples” of your business writing, whether you intend it or not, for better or for worse, carry with them the potential for being your most cost-effective marketing tool. Your best, easiest-to implement customer satisfaction solution. Your strongest team-building technique. And your best way to demonstrate your professionalism, credibility, and hire-me-now employability.

Or not.

What you write on the job not only reflects on you, and your professionalism and credibility, but on your prospective employer. No wonder how you present yourself – in writing – on that job application is so important to that prospective employer.

Of course writing will be critical to who is chosen for an interview, and ultimately who gets the job.

Where else are free samples used in business writing at this very minute?

Coupling the newest technology with one of the most traditional enticements, today’s marketers have carried free samples, demonstrating their products or their capabilities, into the 21st century – apparently, for the most part, with reasonable success. We all want to see what we’re getting before we buy. Free webinars, teleseminars, and white papers abound online and are downloadable, in case you miss the scheduled time. Newsletters, Blog sites, and videos are readily available, and you can choose to subscribe to receive these “free samples” on a regular basis.

A local plumber has thought outside the box. Speculating on the greatest inconvenience a plumber can cause the customer – making him or her either take a day off work, or hire someone to wait for the plumber to arrive – he sets a specific appointment time, and advertises a $50 discount if his plumber is 15 minutes late. A free sample of this company’s responsiveness to the customer, rather than the other way around.

These are obvious free samples. Yet the way you write every email, every hand-written note, every instruction, every in-house memo – the way you respond to every question or explanation on a day-to-day basis, both internally and externally, can inspire confidence, build trust, and make your reader want to work with you.

Or not.

For this week, let me ask you to think about these “free samples.” Think about what your business writing is saying about you, and about the organization you represent.

  1. Is your intention clear in the first paragraph?  Have you made your point quickly, clearly, concisely? If the reader read no further, would he or she “get it”?
  2. Have you considered what this piece of business writing must accomplish? What results you need to have? Should this piece reasonably be expected to do it?
  3. Have you considered the all-important tone you will use for this piece? Did you succeed in creating, or reinforcing an existing relationship? Is this the appropriate relationship for this issue?
  4. Have you organized your information in a logical sequence, with one thought or point building to the next?

 We appreciate your recommending a Gail Tycer business writing workshop for your workplace, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming professional meeting.

Published in: on April 2, 2013 at 9:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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Words that Create Mix-Ups – Part II

Let’s take a quick look at some more of those commonly misspelled, misused, or misunderstood words or phrases that can be such a problem:

How do you use “i.e.,” and “e.g.”?  There is a difference!

One way to remember which is which is to look at their Latin roots. My dictionary tells me that each phrase is an abbreviation for a Latin phrase: i.e. (id est) means “that is”; while e.g. (exempli gratia) means “for example.” Each, according to the AP style guide, is always followed by a comma.

To confuse the issue a bit, “I.E.” or “IE” both stand for the title “Industrial Engineer.”

You may have wondered about “pro-,” “anti-,” and “non-”

While each is most often used as part of an ordinary word, e.g., produce, anticipate, or nonsense, each may also be used to coin a new word, in which case, “pro” generally means for;  “anti” means against; and “non” means not.

Thus you have pro-peace; anti-war; and non-inflammatory. There are several rules and exceptions, so it’s always best to look up your specific word, and how to use it, in your dictionary and perhaps style guide as well.

And speaking of the need to standardize on a specific dictionary or style guide,

How about “bi-” and “semi-”?

“Bi-” means “every other,” while “semi-” means “twice.” So, when you say your newsletter is published “bimonthly,” that means it comes out every other month. But if you are really ambitious, and your newsletter is published “semimonthly,” your newsletter comes out twice a month (AP Style Guide) Whether these words are hyphenated or not depends on your dictionary or style guide.

There are some tricky exceptions. For example, “biannual” and “semiannual” are both words, mean the same, and are correctly spelled without the hyphen.  You could issue a policy update biannually (twice a year) – no hyphen, or semiannually (also twice a year).

To further confuse this issue, “biennial” means every two years. No wonder English is so difficult to learn!

Now for an easy one: “reject,” or “refute”:

Often used interchangeably, these two words have very different meanings. “Reject” means to refuse to accept. So you could say, “I totally reject the entire concept, and that is the end of it!”

On the other hand, if you just like a good argument, you could “refute” what someone has said, or offer proof that it was wrong, inaccurate, mistaken, or just a plain old lie! So you could say, “I am about to refute the accuracy of what he said: to prove that he has, indeed, lied about this matter.”

© 2013 Gail Tycer • www.GailTycer.com

Published in: on November 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Thank Your Favorite English Teacher!

I hope everyone reading today’s entry will take a moment to drop a note or call to thank your favorite English teacher. Without him or her none of us would be where we are today. So bless that English teacher for giving us the sound, solid basic writing skills that have helped us so very much so far. The skills that allow us to build from them to move forward and take the next step. The skills that allow us to prove our professionalism and demonstrate our credibility.

In my business writing workshops, I often hear stories about a participant’s favorite English teacher. For example:

We were discussing prepositions one day, and how the last word of a prepositional phrase may cause confusion, resulting in a plural verb with a singular subject. This can happen because the last word of the prepositional phrase, often located next to the subject it describes, was plural, while the subject of the sentence was actually singular. One of the class members said, “My English teacher told us that ‘a preposition is a word that describes any way a bird can fly.’”

While this is not strictly true, it is fairly accurate, and is somewhat easier than memorizing the entire list of prepositions in the English language, which is not a bad idea either. (If you would like to take a look at the list of prepositions, visit my BusinessWritingZone.com website.)

It’s amazing how much can be learned from class members! I hope you will share your favorite teacher story, too. Just comment, or e-mail me. Thanks, I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

© 2013 Gail Tycer • www.GailTycer.com

Blogger Tip #1: Make it readable

This week, we’re welcoming blogger Marilyn Tycer. Marilyn is a graphic designer and blogger, and we’ve asked her to share some of her tips for bloggers.

Tip #1: Make it readable.

Now that you have a subject for your blog, and some ideas for posts, what comes next? Start typing! But it’s important to take care to craft your blog posts into something readable. So before you hit the “Publish” button, take a moment to revise your writing. While the subject of your blog might be popular, your blog probably won’t get a lot of followers if your writing is hard to read or bland. (more…)

Overcoming Email Irritants

If I were to ask you what are the things about your incoming email that are most likely to drive you right over the edge some day, what would you say?

Here are the most common, perhaps not-so-surprising answers most often given at my email workshops across the country:

1.  Emails sent “reply all,” or to an entire emailing list, rather than just to those few who really have a need for the information

(more…)

Published in: on February 17, 2010 at 10:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Writers INC

[Image source]

Writers INC is a valuable resource for writers of all ages and all genres. While intended for high school students, it contains a wealth of essential information that is relevant to business writers.

A quick look at the Writers INC table of contents:
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A fun story about “woman” vs. “women”

Happy New Year, everyone!

My granddaughter shared a funny story with me. She works in a middle school and was helping a student revise his work. The assignment was to make a comic strip about a scene in the book Jennifer Murdley’s Toad, and this particular student chose the scene where the young woman protagonist is humiliated because she has to wear her brother’s underpants and everyone at school finds out. (It is a very amusing book, to say the least!) (more…)

Published in: on January 7, 2010 at 6:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Proofreading Tips, Tactics & Techniques

Get Ready:

 

1. Start the easy way. Use your spell checker—remember, it will “OK” any word that is correctly spelled, whether or not it’s correctly used

2. Use the grammar checker. Make sure you understand what it’s trying to tell you.

3. Leave some time between inputting the material and proofreading it. Overnight is good. When possible, try to schedule proofreading when you’re fresh, and there are the fewest distractions.

(more…)

Published in: on December 9, 2009 at 11:16 pm  Comments (1)  
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