March 2011  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

“If I can write everything out plainly, perhaps I will myself understand better what has happened.”

—Sherwood Anderson

Word Pair of the Month: first, firstly

It seems that when it comes to enumerating things in a list, we often feel bound to add an “ly” to form the words firstly, secondly, lastly, etc. Let’s get out of that habit.

Although “firstly” is a word—an adverb meaning “in the first place”—it is awkward sounding and rather unprofessional. You’d do well to stick with the more refined first, as well as second, last, and so on. As you will find in most of your writing, simpler is better.

March Writer’s Forum Question

This month we thought we’d talk about dress codes again. With the constant move toward casual office dress, we were wondering how your business handles it, and how it affects you.

Alison Grimes of Detroit enjoyed the casual dress code in her office—until…

Our office was always casual, and it was a big relief to me not to have to spend a fortune on clothes for work. We even wore dressier jeans with casual but nice tops, and everyone felt very relaxed. Then we got a new colleague who took it too far. She got sloppier and sloppier, and started coming in with torn jeans—she said they were “trendy.” We just thought they were embarrassing. Finally, our office manager had to say we couldn’t wear jeans at all, and we were advised to dress more professionally all the way around. One person spoiled it for us all!

Cho Gruber of New York is appalled at the very idea of casual office dress.

As a lawyer in a large firm, casual dress to me means I take off my suit jacket. Some of the guys might wear chinos now and then, but when they do, they always wear shirts with ties and have nice sport jackets in their office closets, just in case they need them. As for the women, we generally come to work in dresses or tailored pantsuits. Most of us do commute in sport shoes or boots, but we change into our good shoes when we get off the elevator. We were never told to do this, but if you are a professional, you should know how to dress professionally. This is a business, and our job is to let our clients know that we are serious about taking care of them.

Mark Hoffstaedter of Portland, Oregon, thinks he has it made.

Well, since I work from my home office and never meet clients in person (thank you, computer chat!), it really doesn’t matter what I wear. I usually start the business day in my pajamas but switch to sweats at noon when I walk my dog. If I have a televised computer meeting, I throw on a shirt and jacket, and the other people never know that I’m wearing sweatpants or pajama bottoms. Is this a great job or what?

Stacia Johnson of Chicago also works at home, but she has a different view.

Working at home is great, but I sometimes think it would be nice to have to dress up a bit in the morning and have someplace to go and people to see. I usually work in jeans from my computer, but some days I dress in a nice, professional outfit, just to remind myself that my work is real, and it counts. It’s funny. If I schlep into my office in sloppy clothes, I do sloppy work. But if I throw on a suit and comb my hair, well, the extra effort shows in my product.

A Final Thought

There’s an old expression, “The length of a minute depends on which side of the bathroom door you’re on.“ Nowadays we are applying this “theory of relativity” to our electronic devices. Remember when it took several minutes just to access the Internet? (Ah, the raspy sound, the beeps, how they excited us!) Remember that tedious wait for a Web page to download—line by line? Now we get impatient if it takes more than 30 seconds to access anything online. The newest generation of netbook computers tout a 10-second start-up, rendering obsolete any need to wait. One can’t help but wonder whether our instant-on world is eroding the joy of thinking, pondering, letting our minds wander. Oops, gotta go—my two-minute microwave meal just beeped!

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Write for Business Blog

Entries so far for the month of March include…

Staff Articles

Constructing Sentences

Types of Sentences

Using Punctuation


Visit our blog for these and other great articles!

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