May 2012  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Test Your Writing Acumen

Ah, the humble comma: so common, so omnipresent, so often misused. Are you confident in your own use of this versatile bit of punctuation? Test yourself with the quiz below. Simply insert missing commas where they belong. (Hint: Some sentences may call for more than one.)

  1. Since you couldn’t join us we made the decision without you.
  2. We made the decision without you since you couldn’t join us.
  3. The east parking lot which was paved last summer has developed cracks.
  4. The parking lot that is east of the building will be closed tomorrow for repairs.
  5. She opened the box that waited on her desk and laughed.

Answers can be found near the end of this newsletter.

Writing the Sales Letter

Sales letters must be carefully drafted, especially when they serve as a first contact with a potential customer or client. Consider the following points:

  1. Capture the reader’s attention. “Hook” your reader with a startling fact, an emotional appeal, or some other point of interest to ensure that he or she reads on to get the meat of your message.
  2. Establish the reader’s need for your product or service. Describe your product or service and explain its benefits thoroughly. List special features and address possible doubts with assurances and specific rebuttals.
  3. Prove your credibility. Provide endorsements or testimonials from past users. Show your reader that you have a history of satisfied customers and that you can and will deliver the goods.
  4. Encourage action. Offer a phone number, a Web site, or a postage-free addressed envelope for placing an order.
  5. Give more. Promise something extra—a free consultation or product attachment, an extended warranty, or a contest.

Present all this in short, easy-to-read sentences and paragraphs. Use a friendly conversational voice rather than an overly formal tone. Finally, as with all your writing, proofread, proofread, proofread. Errors in spelling or punctuation diminish a customer’s confidence in your dedication.

You can find more on writing persuasive messages beginning on page 123 in Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating in the Workplace.

Trainer Tips

Brain-based learning, which considers the brain’s structure and natural function, has taken the educational community by storm. The main point is that learning involves both thoughts and emotions. So if someone feels attacked or insecure, his or her brain’s capacity to retain information will be considerably impaired. To optimize concept retention, maintain an encouraging, positive training environment.

That Little Extra

If you wear glasses and spend a lot of time staring at a computer screen, you might consider special coatings designed to reduce glare, fatigue, and eyestrain. If you don’t wear glasses, think about getting a pair with nonprescription lenses plus the protective coating. Consider them “safety glasses” for the office.


May 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.

We are bombarded with the printed word every day—in newspapers, on billboards, in TV advertisements, in our mail—and these all too often include errors. Are you a print purist? Do certain mistakes especially bug you? Or do you just shrug them off? Let us know if you have a print peeve.

E-mail your response to Write “May 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. Since you couldn’t join us, we made the decision without you. (Use a comma after an introductory adverb clause or a long introductory phrase. See Write for Business page 258.)
  2. We made the decision without you since you couldn’t join us. (A comma is usually omitted if the adverb clause follows the main clause. See Write for Business page 258.)
  3. The east parking lot, which was paved last summer, has developed cracks. (Use commas to set off nonrestrictive modifiers. See Write for Business page 260.)
  4. The parking lot that is east of the building will be closed tomorrow for repairs. (Do not use commas to set off a restrictive modifier. See Write for Business page 260.)
  5. She opened the box that waited on her desk, and laughed. (Use a comma where needed for clarity. See Write for Business page 259.)

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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When Medium Is Well Done

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