February 2012  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Test Your Writing Acumen

One of the most common types of punctuation error involves the apostrophe. Test your knowledge of this little mark by choosing the correct answer in each sentence below.

  1. We were surprised by all the (can’ts, can’t’s) we received in reply to our invitation.
  2. We stood nervously outside the (attorney-at-law’s, attorney’s-at-law) office.
  3. I have always been intrigued by (jazz’, jazz’s) intricacies.
  4. One lesser-known Texas holiday is Confederate (Heroes’s, Heroes’) Day.

You’ll find correct answers at the end of this newsletter.

How to Write a Collection Letter

In your business, you may at some point need to write a collection letter. Whether it is a first, second, or final notice, set up the document in standard letter format. The content of the opening, middle, and closing parts should vary in the consecutive letters, however.

First Notice: The opening serves as a reminder that the account is past due and by how long. The middle reviews details of the account, including the amount owed (plus any interest), and requests payment. The closing asks the reader to contact you with any problems. The tone throughout should be pleasant and helpful.

Second Notice: The opening mentions the previous reminder and identifies the current number of days the account is past due. The middle reviews the account history (again), expresses concern for the past-due status, and offers to discuss any problems. The closing urges immediate contact and provides details for doing so. The tone of this letter should express concern, both about the account and for the recipient, with a hope for a quick resolution.

Final Notice: The opening recaps the facts of the purchase and account history. The middle reviews steps taken so far to collect the debt and announces an intent to begin collection proceedings. The closing offers a final chance to resolve the matter by a specific date, whether by payment or communication. The tone should be neutral, using straightforward terms to cover the situation.

By maintaining a professional approach throughout and offering several chances to discuss any problems, your collection letters will stand the best chance of encouraging payment and of maintaining a potentially valuable business relationship. They will also enhance your reputation.

For more details, including example collection letters, see Write for Business, pages 124-127.

Trainer Tips

Experienced trainers know that attendees don’t always bring pen and paper to a training session. You can save time, then, by placing those items at their seats before they arrive, along with prepared handouts and photocopies of any slide presentation you may be offering. Besides allowing participants to refer to and review key information, prepared materials provide an excellent hedge against equipment malfunction. Place all of the particulars in an attractive folder with your company “brand” and contact information prominently displayed. You’ll not only appeal to your audience’s sense that they have received a gift but also ensure their easy reference to the information later on.

That Little Extra

We hear again and again that a sedentary life is not healthful and that the average person needs to log 10,000 steps a day—approximately five miles—for basic health. But if you work at a desk, chances are you don’t spend a lot of time getting your blood moving. This year, make a conscious effort to increase your walking distance. To track your progress, invest in a pedometer, and then watch the number grow. Walk to the break room—25 steps. To the copy room—another 30 steps. As a bonus, take one or two flights of stairs instead of the elevator. Increase your number of steps outside as well: Walk beyond the nearest bus or train stop to the next, or park at the farthest end of the lot. Walk to a restaurant instead of taking a cab, or just take the dog for an extra turn around the block. The result will be a healthier you.


February Writers' Forum Topic

Here’s your chance to tell us how your work environment operates. Send us your responses to the forum question below, and we’ll print the most interesting in our eTips Mid-Month Mini.

As technology advances at breathtaking speed, some devices that we couldn’t live without before are now becoming passé. How are you keeping up? Have you bid a fond farewell to an electronic helper, or are you loyal to some item that could be replaced with something newer, faster, or smaller? Share your thoughts with us. Also note that we will include the type of device but not the specific brand in our posts.

E-mail your response to writersforum@upwritepress.com. Write “February Writers’ Forum” in the subject line, and you could see your reply in the eTips Mid-Month Mini.

Solution to this month’s brainteaser:

  1. We were surprised by all the (can’ts, can’t’s) we received in reply to our invitation. (Don’t use two apostrophes in one word.)
  2. We stood nervously outside the (attorney-at-law’s, attorney’s-at-law) office. (The possessive of a compound noun is formed by adding an apostrophe-s to the last word.)
  3. I have always been intrigued by (jazz’, jazz’s) intricacies. (The possessive of a one-syllable word ending in an s or a z sound is usually formed by adding an apostrophe-s.)
  4. One lesser-known Texas holiday is Confederate (Heroes’s, Heroes’) Day. (Possessives used in holiday names are formed the same way as any other possessives—singular words take an apostrophe-s, and plurals add an apostrophe after the s.)

We Want to Hear from You!

This is your chance to be part of the UpWrite Press newsletters and blogs. What writing topics do you want to hear about? Have you any favorite communications tips you’d like to share? What words do you constantly mix up? Send us your ideas and you could see your name in Writing eTips or the Mid-Month Mini.

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Coming in March

Writing the Fund-Raising Letter

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