January 2011  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

“The task of a writer consists in being able to make something out of an idea.”

—Thomas Mann

Word Pair of the Month: controller, comptroller

These two words cause of lot of confusion, and while they once had slightly different meanings, now they are pretty much interchangeable. Both words refer to a chief accountant in a business, institution, or government agency. The only real difference is that controller with an “n” also refers to those people who direct air traffic.

January Writer’s Forum Question

Ah, it’s time for our annual resolutions issue. But this year, let’s look back a little first. Tell us what you’ve learned (preferably about writing) this past year, and then how that figures into what you hope to accomplish in 2011.

Seneca Jasperson of Austin, Texas, writes:

This past year I had an embarrassing experience when I accidentally hit “send” on a rough draft of an e-mail to my boss. It wasn’t anything huge—I mean, I didn’t insult her or anything, but it was full of mistakes and made me sound pretty unprofessional. Boy, she hasn’t let me forget it! It did make me resolve to be more careful, and I even suggested to her that we have some kind of in-service on the proper use of professional e-mail. Guess what? She agreed, and “volunteered” me to be in charge of it.

Mark Allen Hong of Sacramento also had an embarrassing situation that led to some changes in his business practice:

I learned that sometimes “cheaping it out” isn’t a good thing. I run a small shop, and I tried to cut costs by doing my own advertising, even though I was really busy. So I rushed and sent out a flyer with a spelling error. One of my customers said it made me look sloppy, and I actually lost some business because of it. Guess people figured if I didn’t care about my spelling, I wouldn’t care about their business. I didn’t bother having anyone else proofread, so I can’t blame anyone but myself. It made me realize that I need help, and it led me to actually hire someone to help me with marketing. The investment has paid off. I learned a valuable lesson—I can’t do it all alone—and I’m working hard to win back those customers I lost.

Bernice Jackson of Chicago looks back on 2010 as a learning year, and we certainly applaud her efforts and wish her all the best in 2011:

I made some pretty bad personal choices and spent six months in a work-release program. But while I was in there, I took my incarceration time to read and talk with counselors. Now I have a stronger vision of what I can achieve and how to do it. I want to learn to write better, to speak better, and to work harder, and I am taking night classes to help me get where I want to go.

A Final Thought

We all make mistakes, and we all need to deal with them the best we can. The hardest part is forgetting the humiliation—but maybe we’re not supposed to forget it. Maybe memory is a defense mechanism designed to keep us from making the same or similar mistakes again and again. Let that be the case, then, and move forward. May 2011 bring fewer mistakes and more victories for all of us.

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Write for Business Blog

Entries so far for the month of January:

Staff Articles

Constructing Sentences

Using Punctuation


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