February 2013  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

—Stephen King, On Writing

Word Pair of the Month: affect, effect

What a difference one letter can make! These two words are among the most frequently confused in the language, but with the information and follow-up tip below, you may never mix them up again.

The verb affect, starting with an “a,” means “to influence.”

The heavy snow is bound to affect our delivery schedule.

The verb effect, beginning with an “e,” means “to make happen.”

We knew we had to effect a change if our company was to survive.

The noun effect means “the result.”

The new organizational plan had a positive effect on our productivity.

One way to distinguish affect and effect is to remember that, just as “a” comes before “e” in the alphabet, you must influence a situation before you can make something happen or get a result.

February Writers’ Forum Question

Whether you need to inform, discuss, or brainstorm, meetings are a necessary part of running a business. Sometimes, however, it’s impossible to get everyone together at one time. How do you handle the challenge of keeping everyone on the same page when joint scheduling is impossible?

Bethany Grant of Charleston, VA, writes:

We have a busy sales force, so it’s tricky getting all our sales reps in town at the same time, let alone in a conference room. To get everyone together at once, we use videoconferencing. If that isn’t possible, we go with teleconferencing. We want everyone involved and engaged, so multitasking during the meeting is banned, and our long-distance participants don’t use the “mute” button, either.

Joseph Littlejohn of Tucson cites the benefits of mandatory participation:

When a meeting is scheduled, each person or team is given a point to chair and is required to provide others with a brief outline by email prior to the meeting. That way, if people have to be absent, they still have an overview of the meeting. And if anyone has comments about a particular outline, he or she can send them on before the meeting to allow the presenter time to prepare a response.

Sometimes the simplest ways are the best, according to Rob Bennett of Seattle:

Remember the “buddy” system we used in school and at camp? In our office we use something similar. Workers are grouped with two others in their division, and if one misses a meeting, the others are charged with bringing him or her up to speed on what transpired. We like the “threes,” because we found it creates a more comfortable situation when one person doesn’t feel totally responsible for the information. Also, the notes are more thorough when they come from two people—what one misses, the other catches.

Sue Chan of Newark thanks electronics for keeping everyone in the loop:

We record every meeting and provide a link where people can listen when they have a chance. All we ask is that they get to it within three days. If there is an urgency or time-sensitive element about the information, we send everyone an email alert.

Finally, D’Wayne Carlson of Chicago says organization and precision work the best:

By having mandatory meetings at the same time each week, people are able to arrange their calendars in advance to make the time to be there. Also, we specify how long the meeting will take, allowing a set block of time for each point covered. Our workers appreciate this respect for their time. Presenters get right to the point, and we eliminate unproductive chitchat.

A Final Thought

When writing most messages, from an email to a proposal, remember to use the inverted pyramid approach. With this structure, you present your main idea right at the beginning and follow with the supporting information in order of importance (from most to least). Journalists do this because editors must trim a story from the bottom up until it fits the allotted space. You can do this so your readers get the main idea, even if they stop reading halfway through.

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