Writing eTips UpWrite Press - We Make Writing Work For You
March 2008 UpWrite Press - We Make Writing Work For You

Gobbledygook may indicate a failure to think clearly, a contempt for one’s clients, or more probably a mixture of both. A system that can’t or won’t communicate is not a safe basis for a democracy.

—Michael Shank, former chairman of the National Consumer Council (Great Britain)

Word Pair of the Month: censor, censure

The word censor means “to look for and eliminate anything that might be objectionable.”

The sponsors tried to censor the TV show's negative references to the recent election, but the network defended the comments as free speech.

The word censure is similar, in that it refers to a negative response, but it mean “to condemn or criticize.”

The network's failure to comply was censured by the sponsors, who promptly pulled their advertising from the program.

(So, you see, the sponsors censured the refusal because the program was not censored as they had wished.)

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March Writers’ Forum Topic

When did you first become aware of the importance of writing in your business? How did it change your attitude toward writing?

Our March forum brought in some thoughtful responses. Apparently, many people aren't aware of exactly when they first grasp an idea; only later does that moment become clear.

Jonas Bradley, who works in advertising in Hartford, Connecticut, found his inspiration from an understanding client.

Looking back, I realize I never acknowledged the importance of writing until I almost lost my company's biggest account. It was the first time my employer had trusted me to write a press release for a major client, and I tried to fill it with high-sounding words and fancy sentences. The client brought it back to me and said he wouldn't use anything he couldn't understand. He very nicely asked me to rework it for him, even implying that it was his fault he couldn't follow it. “Just say what you mean,” he said. Best advice I ever got. Since then, I've always tried to use clear, direct language, especially in my emails.

Gina Petracchi owns a bakery in Tampa, Florida. She discovered the importance of writing in a somewhat different light and credits a high school teacher with her awareness.

I never considered the impact of good writing until my senior year in high school. I was kind of a goof-off, and one day my English teacher asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I had no idea. She asked me what I liked to do best of all, and I told her I loved to bake. “Write about it,” she said. “If you can write it, you can do it.” I wrote down, “I want to own my own bakery.” Up until then, this had just been a vague, distant dream, but having it on paper made my dream seem real. I got a spiral notebook and started to write everything I knew about baking, and what I thought I still had to learn. I wrote about the kinds of bakery I would like to create, and I wrote down recipes and notes about unusual pastries I had read about or seen. Then I looked into what I would have to do to achieve my dream and wrote all that down, too. That notebook—now dog-eared and yellowed—became a map to my future. I still have it, and even today, I live by my former teacher's creed: “If you can write it, you can do it.”

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Coming in April:
Word Choice: Using Technical Terms
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