June 2013  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Test Your Writing Acumen

Do you understand agreement? This is your chance to test yourself. Decide whether each sentence below is correct or has an agreement issue.

  1. One of the desk chairs was broken and missing their casters.
  2. There is interesting demonstrations scheduled for the conference.
  3. Everybody must attach his or her receipts to the proper form in order to be reimbursed.
  4. The board of directors cast their votes on the proposed merger.
  5. The board of directors will announce their decision tomorrow.
  6. Neither Tom nor the writers was prepared for the presentation.

Answers can be found near the end of this newsletter.

The Traits of Writing: Organization

We’ve said previously that writing should have a beginning, a middle, and an ending. But beyond that, the way ideas are organized within these three parts will influence the document’s effectiveness. Various organizational patterns are explained below, and your purpose for writing can help you determine which pattern to use.

  1. Time: If you are explaining a situation, moving chronologically from start to finish will allow your reader to follow along. Transition words such as “next,” “after that,” and “then” will connect the different stages of the event in the reader’s mind.
  2. Location: This pattern is effective for describing a physical scene. Move from left to right or top to bottom, offering a natural flow of details for the reader to absorb.
  3. Classification: If you are breaking down a body of information into categories, discuss each one in its own paragraph and cover it thoroughly before moving on to the next.
  4. Order of Importance: Start with the most important item and move to the least, or reverse the order, starting with the least important and moving to the most for a dramatic effect.
  5. Comparison/Contrast: Compare the similarities and/or differences between two things. Either present the first item in its entirety and then the second, or present each similarity and difference for both items until the comparison is complete.
  6. Cause/Effect: A single cause may bring about many effects, or many causes may bring about one main effect. It’s generally most logical to begin with the cause(s) and move on to the effect(s).
  7. Problem/Solution: For solution-focused writing, introduce the problem, offer a solution, and support the solution. For problem-focused writing, introduce the problem, explain it completely with supporting information, and then offer a solution.
  8. Deduction/Induction: In this pattern, move from the specific to the general (a single certainty suggests several possibilities) or the general to the specific (several details suggest a single conclusion).

Of course, sometimes you must combine patterns—a cause/effect pattern may be presented chronologically, a comparison/contrast pattern may also include classification, and so on. By choosing the most appropriate organization, you can help your reader better understand your message.

You can find more information on organization beginning on page 17 in Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating in the Workplace.

Trainer Tip

While you may be inclined to look for professional trainers outside your business, consider the advantages of finding trainers within the ranks. Chances are you have many employees with natural leadership abilities. (Isn’t that one of the reasons you hired them?) With some presentation training and the right materials, your own workers could prove to be able instructors. Using trainers from within your organization not only fosters a comfortable learning atmosphere but also allows trainees to easily contact their instructors with follow-up questions.

That Little Extra

Try to be precise with your business letter salutations. While “Dear Sir or Madam” is acceptable when you are not addressing a particular person, it is a bit stiff. Always make the effort to find the name of the person to whom you are writing. This may be as simple as looking at the company’s Web site, reading a magazine masthead, or making a phone call to the company to ask about a name. (“Could you please tell me the name of the Human Resources Manager?”) Also, if the person you are writing to has a title (Doctor, Professor), use it in your salutation. In the end, if you cannot find a name, use the appropriate title instead: “Dear Human Resources Manager.” And if you are writing a general letter to a company, simply use the company name: “Dear Ajax Solutions.”


June 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 at our wide-awake best at certain times during the work day, and practically in “sleep mode” at other times. These circadian rhythms affect our work output, and that includes our ability to write. When you have a writing task before you, how do you handle the energy ebbs that slow the flow of your ideas? Please share your tips for working through these inevitable slumps.

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

Answers to This Month’s Quiz

  1. Incorrect. The singular subject “one” requires the singular pronoun “its.” One of the desk chairs was broken and missing its casters.
  2. Incorrect. The plural subject “demonstrations” requires the plural verb “are.” There are interesting demonstrations scheduled for the conference.
  3. Correct. “Everybody” is singular so it agrees with the gender-appropriate “his or her.” Everybody must attach his or her receipts to the proper form in order to be reimbursed.
  4. Correct. Since the board members are acting individually, the subject “board” is plural. It agrees with the plural pronoun. The board of directors cast their votes on the proposed merger.
  5. Incorrect. In this case, the board is acting as a single unit, so the correct pronoun is the singular “its.” The board of directors will announce its decision tomorrow.
  6. Incorrect. When subjects are joined by or or nor, the verb should agree with the subject closest to it. Neither Tom nor the writers were prepared for the presentation. Or: Neither the writers nor Tom was prepared for the presentation.

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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The Traits of Writing: Voice

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