November 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: good, well

This month’s pair is one of the most frequently mixed up in the English language. And it may be due to the fact that the accepted use of these words is gradually changing over time, especially in spoken language. As a business writer, however, you will do well to follow the standard uses explained here.

  1. Use good as an adjective before a noun:
    I saw a good movie. / You do good work.
  2. Also use the adjective good when it follows a linking verb:
    The new office space looks good. / The boss feels good about it.
  3. Use well as an adverb to modify an action verb:
    The desk fits well in that corner. / The staff members work well together.

But: Use well as an adjective (either before a noun or following a linking verb) when talking about matters of health and well-being:
Matt was sick but feels well today. / All is well. / Well baby visits are covered under the policy.

Tip: A good dictionary usually offers examples of how to use a word, so look up the word good or well if you are ever stumped. One of the examples may fit your situation perfectly.

November Writer’s Forum Question

We all love the TV shows and movies set in an office where the main character develops a friendship—even a familial relationship—with coworkers, despite their crustiness or humorous quirks. We’d all love to be in such a warm, fuzzy situation, but is it feasible? How do you view your coworkers? Do you socialize with them outside of the office? Would you want to? For this one, we won’t print anyone’s name—that could be awkward—so feel free to be as honest as you like.

One reader, a Business/Marketing/IMT Programs Professional from Las Vegas writes: I don’t want to go out with my coworkers on a regular basis, but the occasional birthday lunch or happy hour helps build morale and team spirit.

Yet she goes on to say:

I think it [having both a personal and professional relationship] can work if one is able to keep them separate. I have developed a close friendship with one coworker from another office in another city. We often stay at each other’s home when we are visiting on business. So far we have been able to keep our friendship separate from our work relationship. Sometimes we disagree in staff meetings or will debate an issue; but we are able to keep that on a professional level.

An Atlanta reader, an electronics store sales associate, has quite a different take:

It’s enough that I have to spend nine hours a day with a group of people, so why would I want to stretch it out? When I’m done with work, I go home and spend time with my family and other friends. If I go out with coworkers, all we have to talk about is work, and I just want to leave it behind. They’re nice people, and I like working with them, but enough is enough!

A reader from a town outside Milwaukee suggests that small offices tend to encourage closeness among workers.

We are a small tax-accounting firm, and we are very close—probably because we are constantly advising and helping each other. Plus, we are in a small town, and several of us belong to the same social groups or civic organizations, so we have outside connections as well.

Some jobs in particular seem to lend themselves to coworker socialization. One reader, a high school business teacher in San Antonio, wrote about the connection between the staff members in her school.

Since most of us have similar schedules and are all working toward a common goal—the education of the kids—we tend to spend time together outside of school as well. Of course, many of our social occasions revolve around the school—sports games, chaperoning dances and clubs, and so on. And since most of us live in the area, our own kids go to school together, and we see each other at their school functions, too. And it’s not just teachers who stick together; support staff from office workers to custodians are included. We don’t mind talking about work—we commiserate and help each other. Of course there are always a few who keep to themselves after hours, but the majority could be considered a real community, and that’s nice.

And some jobs are simply not conducive to socialization, as indicated by this line manager outside of Detroit.

We are a manufacturer where the only interaction between line workers is the occasional comment on the product. And communication between line workers and management is pretty much limited to performance. Even during lunch breaks there isn’t a lot of personal conversation. But our people do seem to socialize at the planned events like company picnics and holiday parties. Maybe we should consider doing more of those kinds of social things . . . to boost morale. The workers here, like at a lot of places these days, are just concentrating on getting that much-needed paycheck. It’s kind of sad, but the reality of it is that socializing with coworkers is not a big priority for them.

A Final Thought

November tends to be an in-between month. It’s blustery and getting cold, but for most of us there’s no snow, or at least not enough for winter sports. The days get shorter, and sunshine is eagerly anticipated rather than taken for granted. But instead of cursing the early, long dark evenings, try enjoying them as a time to reflect . . . and to gear up for the holidays.

Here’s wishing everyone a lovely Thanksgiving.

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