Writing eTips UpWrite Press - We Make Writing Work For You
February 2007 UpWrite Press - We Make Writing Work For You

Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.


Writing is no trouble: you just jot down ideas as they occur to you. The jotting is simplicity itself—it is the occurring which is difficult.

—Stephen Leacock

Word Pair of the Month: percent, percentage
Okay, both of these words refer to a portion of a whole. They may seem similar, but they have different purposes.

Percent means a specific amount and is always used with a number.

She and her brother own 51 percent of the stock.

Percentage, on the other hand, is not used with a specific number.

The actors received a percentage of the ticket money.

Remeber, excellent writing is in the details—in this case, in using the precise word.

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February Writers’ Forum Topic
This month’s topic offered a sticky scenario:

Suppose you have an employee, a co-worker, or a supervisor who continually sends out memos or other writing with glaring grammatical errors. You have been asked by your employer or other co-workers to somehow help that person. What approach would you use, and how would it differ depending on the offender’s position?

Kim Van Ess, an instructor of English at Northwestern College in Iowa, had this to say: “The writer’s supervisor should be the one to bring the sloppy e-mails to the attention of the writer. If I were the supervisor, I would tell the writer that colleagues might discredit him or her as a professional and disregard his or her ideas if the grammatical errors continue in the memos and other writing. I would suggest that before sending out any writing, it be shown it to a colleague who has good grammatical skills (I might suggest a certain colleague). Hopefully the writer will learn editing skills in the process and become better equipped to edit his/her own writing.”

Basim Zeineldin, Associate Director of Marketing for Taro Pharmaceuticals Inc., in Ontario, Canada, said he would suggest a supervisor run any communications through him for a final proofing, while for a subordinate, he would provide a checklist, on which he would “make sure that spell check is on the top of the list.” He would then recommend a writing course, if necessary.

Finally, Susi L. Benson, CAP suggests that the position of the “offender” is unimportant, and that in any case, “being discreet in selecting the time and place to comment” is of utmost importance. “The approach, attitude, tone and nonverbal communication used when offering to help someone learn to communicate more effectively can make all the difference in the world. Be kind, be patient and be helpful.”

Thanks to everyone who responded. Watch for our next forum question in the March issue of Writing eTips.

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Coming in March:
The Writing Process: Prewriting
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