April 2009
Writing eTips UpWrite Press

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“Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.”

—Francis Bacon

Word Pair of the Month: incidents, incidence

Reader Erin Setzen suggested we examine the difference between the words incidents and incidence. While both words have something to do with an occurrence or situation, they are used in subtly different ways.

The word incidents is a plural noun referring to definite and separate occurrences, usually minor.

There were several incidents that suggested he was less than vigilant about proofreading his written materials.

The word incident, without the final s, may also be an adjective indicating a relationship or dependence on another thing.

A writer’s sense of euphoria is often incident to completing a piece.

Incidence also refers to an occurrence, but specifically to the number of times that occurrence happens.

We discovered a higher incidence of office theft following the cut in benefits.

So watch your spelling and always use the right word to keep your meaning clear.

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April Writers’ Forum Topic

Studies show that writing is playing a larger role in the workplace. In what ways has the role of writing changed in your own career? How did your pre-career training prepare you (or not prepare you) for that writing? What steps are you taking to improve your writing skills? We look forward to reading your experiences and recommendations.

Laurence Mazur, of New York, wrote: I was never a very strong writer, but while still in college I discovered that most job applications would require me to write a personal statement. I took an extra composition course to help me develop a clearer style and the ability to sound intelligent on paper. I think that had a lot to do with landing my first good job out of school.

Kim Lee of Passaic, New Jersey, wrote: I took my undergraduate degree in journalism, and my training in writing was a great help when I entered law school. I was told by the firm that hired me that my writing ability was a big factor in getting my job.

Jenny Snyder says she had to backtrack a little: My boss called me in one day and said I had to write better—my customer letters were confusing, and there had been some repercussions. So I enrolled in a night course, just to get the basics down, and found I really enjoy the minutiae of writing—the puzzle of putting together words to make the best meaning, and how a little change can improve a whole sentence. I actually got into the editing aspect and took some more classes. My boss noticed the improvement and encouraged me to continue my classes (thank you, tuition reimbursement). Now, two years later, I’ve been promoted and am currently the company communications director. I write the company newsletter and handle all interoffice communications. In addition, any written materials must go through me for proofing before they are sent out. Seems I’ve come full circle!

Geoff Vogel took his writing education even further: I’d always enjoyed detail writing, and when I got laid off from my job as a proofreader at an ad agency, I found myself writing a lot—mainly letters of application for jobs! When I joined a temp agency, I was sent to one position where my supervisor liked my sales letters enough to suggest that I look into freelancing. I advertised and began getting a few assignments to write or edit business materials. I enjoy the work, and although I recently got a new full-time job, I’ve kept up the freelancing to earn a little extra money.

Bonus Point

From A Christmas Carol to Back to the Future to 17 Again, books, TV, and movies are full of stories in which a character goes back (or forward) in time and faces the possibility of changing his or her life or the lives of others. We’ve all imagined doing just that. Well, try this: Write about your life as if it were a choose-your-own-adventure book. Examine past choices and consider what you might have done differently. At which points would a different decision have altered your future? While you can’t change the past, you can learn from your mistakes, and maybe change your future.

Our Staff Writers’ Blog

Get the latest insights into writing from our staff writers. So far this month, Dave Kemper has written about getting to the point in "Just a Reminder," Joyce Lee has detailed basic and perfect verb forms in "Let’s talk tense," and Rob King has discussed "The 21st-Century Handshake." Be sure to visit our blog for these and other great articles!

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Coming in May

Creating Global Correspondence

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eTips is a publication of UpWrite Press, Inc., P.O. Box 460, Burlington, Wisconsin 53105. Copyright © 2009,
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