December 2014  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Test Your Writing Acumen

Commas: To use or not to use? Sometimes, it’s pretty clear where to place a comma—for example, before a conjunction separating independent clauses. But other times, you may stop and wonder—should I or should’t I? Test your knowledge of commas by deciding if one is needed in each of the sentences below.

  1. Whatever he does he does well.
  2. The old computer tower was a huge gray monolith.
  3. The old computer was an immense intimidating machine.
  4. When your defenses are down the world can get in.
  5. The world can get in when your defenses are down.
  6. Joan’s opinion when she gives it is the only one that counts.
  7. Gael the report’s writer wasn’t advised of the meeting.
  8. We hired Shandra Jones PhD to lead the initiative.

You can check your answers at the end of this newsletter.

Creating an Effective Visual Presentation, Part 2: Organizing

Last month we looked at how to plan a visual presentation by collecting information and creating a working outline. This month, we give help in the organization of that information into a cohesive introduction, body, and conclusion.

The Introduction

The purpose of your introduction is to

  • greet your audience and grab their attention;
  • present your topic and main idea;
  • establish your credibility as a presenter; and
  • establish the tone of your presentation.

Be brief, using the introduction to lay the foundation for the rest of your presentation. Use attention-grabbing elements such as a joke, a surprising fact, or a demonstration to draw the audience in and prepare them for your information.

The Body

While the introduction could be considered the appetizer, the body presents the meat and potatoes of your talk, setting out your main points and support. The purpose of your presentation will determine the order in which you present your ideas. Here are some ways to organize your information:

  • Chronological order is useful when explaining a process.
  • Order of importance, either least to most or most to least, can help drive home a persuasive idea.
  • Comparison/contrast gives the audience information for making a choice.
  • Cause and effect can explain a problem or situation.
  • Order of location allows an audience to understand a physical layout.
  • Problem/solution is used to to introduce a problem and then present ways to solve it.

The Conclusion

This is your presentation’s dessert—the final imprint of your ideas and the last step in the standard speech model that says: “tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you told them.” Here are some strategies to help you make that final impression:

  • Restate your main points.
  • Offer a plan of action your audience can follow.
  • Ask for questions or comments.
  • Suggest additional research possibilities, even including a handout of sources, titles, and links.

You can find more on creative an effective visual presentation beginning on page 215 in Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating in the Workplace.

Trainer Tips

When planning employee training, be aware that employees have different learning styles. Along with the traditional learning styles (auditory, visual, kinesthetic or hands-on), you should also take into consideration generational learning styles. For example, younger employees have grown up with social media and technology, and usually prefer creative and virtual lessons. Millennials (those born after 1980) have grown up with social media and might prefer working face-to-face in teams, while those of Generation X (born 1965‐1980) might prefer individual computer training. Baby Boomers (born 1946–64), while growing in technology use, might prefer a more traditional style of training, including lectures and repetition. Consider developing an integrated system, or create training teams that include all ages and styles, allowing team members to help and encourage one another.

That Little Extra

Winter is once more upon us, and if it’s like last year, the entire country will be shivering again. You need to keep the temperature comfortable—it’s hard to write or type with freezing fingers—but you also want to keep heating costs low. Improve your office energy efficiency by checking and cleaning heating systems, sealing window and door leaks, and utilizing space heaters and ceiling fans to circulate warm air. Lower your thermostat and encourage your employees to wear warm clothing, and if you have windows on a south or west side, let the sunshine in for free natural warmth.


December 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.

Here come the winter holidays! How does your business use writing to acknowledge your clients or customers?

Email your response to Write “December 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. Whatever he does, he does well.
    Use a comma to avoid confusion between repeated words or phrases.
  2. The old computer tower was a huge gray monolith.
    No comma is needed to separate unequal adjectives.
  3. The old computer was an immense, intimidating machine.
    Use a comma to separate equal adjectives. (You can tell if they are equal if you can logically reverse their order—intimidating, immense.)
  4. When your defenses are down, the world can get in.
    Use a comma after an adverb clause.
  5. The world can get in when your defenses are down.
    Do not use a comma if the adverb clause follows the independent clause.
  6. Joan’s opinion, when she gives it, is the only one that counts.
    Use a comma to set off an interruption.
  7. Gael, the report’s writer, wasn’t advised of the meeting.
    Use a comma to separate an appositive, a noun or phrase that identifies the previous noun or pronoun.
  8. We hired Shandra Jones, PhD, to lead the initiative.
    Use commas to set off a title or initials.

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 December

Writing Your Visual Presentation

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