April 2012  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

“Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words, or he will certainly misunderstand them.”

—John Ruskin

Word Pair of the Month: regardless, irregardless

April fool! Irregardless is considered a nonstandard word, though it is commonly used in conversation. Regardless is the only correct choice here. As an adjective, it means “heedless or careless,” and as an adverb, “in spite of everything.”

Here’s one way to avoid sounding like an April fool if you ever catch yourself starting to say “irregardless.” Just stretch out the “ir” as if you were using an interjection or hesitating for a moment: The project was monstrous, stretching way past five o-clock, but I kept working—errr—regardless. Before long, using the correct word will become just another good habit.

April Writers’ Forum Question

This month’s forum is for readers who are or have been small-business owners. Please share with us either a mistake you made when starting up or something you know now and wish you had known then. Learning from others’ experience is an important benefit of being a community member.

Darcy Ames, of Newark, learned the hard way that enthusiasm is great, but in business, cash is king:

Boy, if I could give advice to someone starting out, it would be this: Be sure you have enough cash to survive a long time. When I began my clothing store, I was sure, with my high-end merchandise, that I would be profitable in three months, so I had only enough backup money for that time. Surprise! My cash ran out, and it took nearly two years before I was in the black. I ended up living in the back room because I couldn’t afford the rent on my apartment. But I didn’t give up on my dream, so my other piece of advice would be “Hang in there.” If you weather the hardships and keep working, you can make it.

Sometimes a great idea just needs the right niche, as Greg Harris of St. Louis learned:

I really thought the world was panting for handmade driftwood lamps and decorative items. Unfortunately, I hadn’t really looked into the market. Turns out that my target area—the landlocked Midwest, where I lived—doesn’t have a beach mentality. The lesson? Do your research and know your market. I finally got wise and concentrated on the mail-order end of the business, closing my store and advertising heavily in New England and along the Pacific coastline.

Susan Hansen of Dallas suggests you remember it’s a business, not a social outlet:

My biggest mistake was making everything too comfy and friendly for my workers. I kept the atmosphere at my boutique relaxed, and I never handed out real consequences for errors. Then, when I needed to establish some rules, my employees resented and ignored them. They came in late and left early or, even worse, chatted and ignored customers. It was hard to reverse that trend and establish the professionalism I should have asked for in the first place. My advice is to start out as a stickler and relax the reins only when everything is running smoothly.

Another lesson? Do the part you know and outsource the rest. At least that’s what Brian Yu of San Francisco learned:

My biggest problem was that I simply didn’t know anything about business. I opened a restaurant because I was a terrific chef, but I had no background in marketing or accounting, and my finances became hopelessly tangled. I finally got matched up with a brilliant business partner, so I could concentrate on the food. My advice would be to either take a few business courses, or hire someone to handle that end of it for you.

Lani Goldman of Santa Monica found that sometimes less is more:

My biggest mistake was thinking I had to start with a bang. When I opened my restaurant, I mortgaged my house, rented the most expensive place in town, hired a big staff, and spent a fortune on décor and business cards. It took me forever to actually get the place going and make some money. My advice? Start small. Save your money. Focus on the areas that really count—quality merchandise and advertising.

A Final Thought

What are your surroundings like at work? Try making your world a little more pleasant by bringing in a few personal mementos and photos. Then, when you’re tired, let your brain click on the picture of your family on vacation or some other happy memory. You can be refreshed and encouraged within moments, ready to get back to work with your mood positively anchored.

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Writing the Sales Letter

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