Writing eTips UpWrite Press - We Make Writing Work For You
November 2007 UpWrite Press - We Make Writing Work For You

A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.

—From James Boswell, Life of Johnson

Word Pair of the Month: device, devise

Ah, the difference one letter can make!

A device is some type of invention that has a particular purpose.

The bundling device saves us a lot of man-hours.

Devise, on the other hand, means “to plan or arrange something.”

If we couldn’t devise a way to cut shipping costs, we would be forced to raise the price of our product.

Another way to tell the difference is to remember that device is a noun, while devise is a verb.

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November Writers’ Forum Topic

Many thanks to all who answered this month’s forum question. We got some interesting responses, but the ones below showed real out-of-the-box thinking.

Do you have a special system for keeping notes in a meeting? Do you outline? Jot down main ideas? Doodle? Share your technique for remembering the high points of your business meetings.

Doug Heiligenthal, an advertising executive in Tacoma, Washington, uses his keyboarding skills for his notes: Many of our meetings are electronic, via conference calls, so before the call I set up a new Word document with the date and/or purpose of the meeting as the file name. Then, as we talk, I can quickly type up notes and set off important points. After the meeting, I review the notes and highlight important points or items I’ll need to find later. I have developed a color-coded highlighting system that allows me to easily find points to be researched, follow-ups, or dates and deadlines to check.


He adds:


I used to simply record entire meetings, but found it too annoying to fast-forward and rewind, trying to find what I wanted. It’s is much easier to manipulate a Word file, plus I can use the “search” function for a specific phrase.

Along those same lines, Gina Vaccaro, an executive assistant for a sporting goods manufacturer in Toledo, Ohio, uses her computer during face-to-face meetings as well: I always bring my laptop to meetings, and before we begin, I bring up any files or documents we will be discussing on the agenda. Then I am able to insert my notes in another color (red is scary, so I use friendly blue) within the document itself. If I am traveling to meetings, I back everything up on a flash drive. Then if the computer is lost or crashes, I still have my information.

Janet James, a sales manager for a music store in Memphis, goes the doodle route, but not with goofy little drawings: I am a visual person, so to help me understand concepts during a meeting, I use graphic charts and drawings. For example, if we are discussing sales records, I create a rough sketch of a chart and label the main areas. Then I organize the points discussed within the chart. Or I make little diagrams—whatever works visually. Later on, I can use these graphics to see connections or gaps in our planning.

All of the respondents emphasized fast note taking—with little time to consider grammar or spelling. These professionals take time after their meetings to proof and revise notes for clearer understanding.

Thanks to all who shared their cleverly “devised” techniques with us!

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Coming in December:
Strong Ideas Through Strong Claims
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