Writing eTips UpWrite Press - We Make Writing Work For You
December 2006 UpWrite Press - We Make Writing Work For You

All words are pegs to hang ideas on.

—Henry Ward Beecher

Word Pair of the Month: disperse, disburse
While both disperse and disburse refer to distributing something, they have different specific meanings.

Disperse means “scatter or break up something.”

The police had to disperse the angry crowd after the disappointing concert.

Disburse means “to pay out money.”

We must disburse the funds by December 31 to qualify for a tax credit.

Personal Coaching for Business Writing Skills
What’s the quickest way to improve your business writing skills? Personal coaching may be the answer. UpWrite Press offers a variety of personal coaching plans that teach traits and techniques of business writing.
Read more about Upwrite Press Personal Coaching

December Writers’ Forum Topic
Thank you to all those who responded to our December eTips request. The request is restated below, followed by some of the responses we received.

In business writing, emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) refers to understanding the emotional content of our correspondence. UpWrite Press is developing a new online course in EI, and we’d like to include some real-life cases (names changed, of course). We’re looking for examples of email “flames” or emotionally charged letters you’ve received, along with your responses, as well as stories about times you’ve had to breach an emotional subject in your correspondence and how you approached the task.

We don’t get many “flaming” letters, but once we had a customer who wrote to us about a problem that had not been solved to her satisfaction. She had been getting, in her words, “the runaround,” and she was furious, her letter angry and accusatory. I was able to track down the trail of her situation, and it turned out there had been several misunderstandings along the way. I guessed that she was probably frustrated by the comedy of errors that had transpired, so I wrote to her and apologized for the situation. I expressed sympathy for her frustration and included my direct number, asking that she call to discuss the matter with me. That personal touch helped her understand that our company did care about her business. We straightened out the matter to her satisfaction, and we have enjoyed her business ever since. Sometimes a little understanding is all people need in dealing with what they perceive to be a cold, heartless corporate world.

—James W., Detroit, MI

I built my business on the old adage “The customer is always right.” My employees know that any nasty letters from customers go directly to me. Then I try to figure out why the customer is upset and attempt to rectify the problem. A conciliatory letter is never out of place, so I take pains to restate the problem and then outline possible solutions. I always let the customer know that I value his or her business and wish to solve the problem. I also include in my replies a coupon or letter offering a discount or special offer on future orders. The important thing is that I handle these situations myself, so my workers do not have to deal with abuse. That’s part of being the boss.

—Rebecca S., Pittsburgh, PA

Recently I had an email exchange with a new marketing assistant who had asked me to give her information for an upcoming presentation. Because I had presented this topic many times, I knew that Marketing already had the material. I was very busy that day, so I responded briefly, “No, I will not. Your department already has it. I’ve certainly presented this topic enough times.” Later I discovered the young assistant had gone to her boss, feeling offended and angry. I realized she must have read the tone of my email as combative and uncooperative. I stopped in later and apologized, explaining that I was overwhelmed with deadlines that day and did not mean to offend her. Now I realize that, instead of emailing her on the spot, when I was angry over things that didn’t concern her, I should have waited until I had a moment to respond calmly, or even walked over and talked with her. No matter how experienced you are, there’s always more to learn.

—Michael B., Milwaukee, WI
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Coming in January :
The 10 C’s—Tips for Business Writing
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eTips is a publication of UpWrite Press, Inc., P.O. Box 460, Burlington, Wisconsin 53105. Copyright © 2006, UpWrite Press. All rights reserved. Visit www.upwritepress.com.