July 2012  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

“Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”

—C. S. Lewis

Word Pair of the Month: allusion, illusion

As we’ve seen before, a single letter can be the only tangible difference between two words with very separate meanings. Consider this month’s pair. An allusion, beginning with an “a,” is an indirect reference to something that the writer (or speaker) assumes the reader (or listener) will be familiar with:

Shakespeare often used allusion to classical mythology.

When talking about our corporate structure, Sam usually makes an allusion to the company’s late founder.

An illusion, beginning with an “i,” is something imagined but not real.

An artful use of cosmetics can help create the illusion of beauty.

The promise of a quick return on his investment was, regrettably, a mere illusion.

Just remember “a” for assume and “i” for imagine to keep allusion and illusion straight.

July Writers’ Forum Question

We all have stories of a stressful first day on a new job. Think back on your own experience, and offer a helpful hint to our readers who are just starting out.

Casey Friend of Boston says he laughs whenever he thinks about the first day on his first job:

I was straight out of college and sure I was bound to change the world. I was so cocky, I came in that first day and told my boss all the things the company was doing wrong that I planned on changing. He looked at me and said, “The only thing you’re changing right now is the paper in the copier.” Then he gave me a huge pile of documents to copy. I was sufficiently humbled and learned that I didn’t know it all.

Comment: Come in your first day ready to learn. A wise person once said, “When you’re talking, you’re not learning anything new.”

Danica Jones of Houston doesn’t laugh when she thinks of her first-day faux pas. In fact, she says, she cringes:

I don’t know what I was thinking. I was told the office had a casual atmosphere, so I showed up in jeans and a T-shirt. Everyone there was dressed like they were going to church. The HR person politely informed me I should go home and change, that my version of casual was too relaxed. My helpful hint? Make sure you know exactly what the dress code is at your new workplace.

Comment: Come in your first day dressed professionally, showing you are ready to work.

More great advice was sent in from Yolanda Paczyk of Chicago, who wrote:

I returned to work after years away raising my family. I had worked at a newspaper before and landed an entry-level position at a small weekly. I was unfamiliar with some of the computer programs they used, but I was too proud (and too foolish) to ask for help. By the end of the first day I was hopelessly behind and in tears. Fortunately, one of my coworkers noticed my despair and asked if I needed help. He showed me where to find training modules and gave me great advice. “Ask,” he said. “We don’t have time for you to try to figure everything out on your own.”

Comment: Come in your first day expecting to ask for help or at least where to find help. No one knows everything.

Graciela Juarez of Miama discovered the hard way that the office is not the place for gossip:

I really wanted to fit in my first day, and when I noticed the office manager coming down hard on a coworker, I tried to be supportive by saying what a witch she was, and the boss overheard. Turns out she was his sister. I didn’t get a second day at that job.

Comment: Play nice, be kind, and focus on the job. Save the gossip or negative comments for the safety of home.

Eric Patel of Portland sent a comment that we can all take to heart:

I had some down time and decided to surf the Internet. I sent some emails, played some games, did some shopping. Then I found out the computers were monitored. Worse, I discovered that there was a system I should have followed to get more work. Fortunately, my supervisor was sympathetic to my ignorance and politely filled me in on workload procedures.

Comment: If you run out of work, ask your supervisor or a coworker. There’s almost always someplace you can chip in.

A Final Thought

Personal networking is an important part of any business. If you are attending a conference or other event where you plan on networking, go in with a clear picture of exactly what you need and hope to get out of the event. Are you looking for new clients? Contacts for a possible future position? Helpful advice or information? A plan will help you stay focused so you can ask the kinds of questions that will elicit the information you need.

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