September 2009  
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"Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light."

- Joseph Pulitzer

Word Pair of the Month: less, fewer

Lynn Hansen wrote to suggest that we discuss the words "less" and "fewer" this month. Good choice, Lynn! Those two words cause trouble because although both refer to amount, they do so in different ways.

Less refers to a reduction in value, degree, or bulk quantity. Fewer, on the other hand, is used for items that can be counted individually. So while you might have less water, you would have fewer raindrops, less mail and fewer letters, or less light but fewer lamps.

Now you understand the grammar faux pas of grocery check-out signs that call for "10 Items or Less." Some stores are actually changing to "10 Items or Fewer."

Thanks, Lynn, for the suggested word pair!

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Every month, UpWrite Press holds a drawing among our fans on Facebook. The monthly prize includes a copy of Write for Business and an emPOWERED Business Writing Job Aide. So log in to your Facebook account, become a fan of UpWrite Press, and RSVP to our September drawing event today!

September Writer's Forum Question

When it comes to writing, what's your body rhythm? In other words, what time of day do you get your best inspiration and do your best work, with your brain hitting on all cylinders? And what do you do when you have to write something immediately, but your mind and body are saying, "I'm not ready yet"? Share your secrets for making your mind work when you want it to.

Ah, the variety of internal clocks! We heard from morning people and those who work best under the glow of the moon, from people who begin to fade early and those who just get going toward the end of the day.

Tuni Jackson, an office manager in Boston, said she seems to follow the sun's pattern:

I wake up full of energy and reach my work peak around one or two o'clock. Then I find myself needing that extra cup of coffee just to get through the afternoon. It's funny, but in summer I have more energy longer into the afternoon. Then in winter my brain seems to dim earlier, with the afternoon light, closing like a morning glory. It must be the sun that keeps me going. Maybe I'm just a flower child, huh?

On the other hand, Gina Vanelli, an accounts rep in Detroit, finds that afternoon is her best time:

I drag in to work each morning, propping my eyes open with toothpicks to stay awake. For the first hour or so, I try to avoid any earth-shattering decisions and spend the time answering messages and mail, doing all those little jobs that have to be done but don't demand a lot of brain power. About ten or ten-thirty, I start to come alive - maybe it's the coffee, but my brain just seems to kick in and I'm sharp and good, taking on the tough stuff for the rest of the day. It works out fine, but boy, those mornings are hard, and I try always to schedule meetings for later in the day!

Max Pollack, a computer programmer in Orlando, had trouble in his career until he tailored his job to his body's circadian rhythms:

I love my work and really know my stuff, and I could never understand why I just couldn't seem to get motivated in my job. Then I switched to the night shift, and voila! Suddenly I had energy, my brain kept ticking, and I was much more productive. Guess I'm the proverbial "night owl," and switching to match my body's rhythms sure made a difference.

Here's hoping whatever your rhythms, you can adapt them to your job, or vice versa!

A Final Thought

If you spend most of your time at a computer, you might have started to notice blurred vision. Optometrists indicate that "Computer vision syndrome" or CVS is a real and growing problem. Even if you wear glasses, chances are they are not designed to correct your vision at the distance between you and your computer screen. If you have been having problems, you might want to invest in a good pair of computer glasses. Even noncorrectional lenses can help your eyes focus and relax, thanks to special coatings that reduce eyestrain and even help filter out annoying blue light from fluorescent office fixtures. You wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun's brightness; think of your computer screen as your "indoor sun" and keep your eyes protected from that glare as well.

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Write for Business Blog

Insights from our writing staff. September posts so far include:

Staff Articles

Using the Right Word

Writing Rules


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