March 2009
Writing eTips UpWrite Press

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“Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret.”

—Matthew Arnold

Word Pair of the Month: amend, emend

This month’s word pair is a little different from our norm: the two words not only sound similar but also have similar meanings. Amend and emend both refer to changing something for the better. While emend is used less frequently, it has an acceptable, exact use and should be part of our basic vocabulary.

The word emend refers specifically to a change in text—as in emending meeting minutes to add details of a report. While amend can also refer to text editing, it is used in other situations, too—as in amending one’s ways. Amend connotes “correction” and “improvement” more strongly than emend does.

This word pair provides a good example of using language in a precise manner. It is also a testimonial for using a thesaurus to find just the right word to convey your meaning clearly and exactly.



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March Writers’ Forum Topic

We seem to have become an electronic workplace. New equipment pops up every day, ostensibly designed to make work and communication easier. Ah, but is it all good? What piece of electronic equipment are you hooked on, and, just as important, what could you do without? Is there something you recently began using that makes you wonder how you managed before? Or does it only complicate your life? Tell us your e-joys and e-woes—we’re all in this together!

We received lots of responses to this one—people seem to love their electronics. Everyone also seems to have a favorite brand, but to be fair, we’ve dropped any specific names from these replies.

Topping the list of our reader must-haves was the personal digital assistant (PDA), which combines the best of phone and computer. Timmi McKean of Orlando, Florida, put it best:

“My [PDA] does pretty much everything I want, keeping me connected, organized, and entertained. Probably the biggest worry I have in my life is the possibility of losing or breaking it. I frankly don’t know what I would do. Probably mess up something and lose my job!”

Another popular device seems to be the digital voice recorder (DVR). This is what Nick Grant of Omaha, Nebraska, said:

“I have always used a voice recorder to help me keep any ideas I come up with on the road, but my new [Brand] is the best! I use it constantly when I’m traveling, and when I get back to my computer, I can just plug it into a USB outlet and download everything I said. I can even transfer it as text, making it even easier to incorporate my ideas into files. Wow! How great is that?”

Jay Allen, a marketing director in Chicago, found that an electronic translator is indispensable in this global market:

“I have clients all over the world, and my [Brand] translator lets me communicate with them effectively. It’s got tons of features and shows me how to write a phrase as well as giving me the correct pronunciation. Can’t beat it.”

Two-way radios have been around forever, but Latasha Benoit manages a hotel in San Francisco, and she says she would be lost without hers. She notes that the newer models have greater range and capabilities:

“We use a two-way system to keep units in touch. Ours has more than 20 channels, so each division has its own channel for privacy but can access another department when necessary. We’ve found it to be more reliable than cell phones, as some areas, such as the underground garage and maintenance plant, block cell reception.”

Of course, not everyone loves everything electronic. Frustrated Boston-area accountant Kyle deGroot has one major complaint:

“Usually I am happy to have a cell phone, but during tax season, I wish I could just chuck it out the window. As filing time gets closer and closer, people seem to feel the need to call me constantly with questions or additions to their information. I like to be available to my clients, but sometimes I think that next year I’ll change my cell number and take the calls only during our office hours—which are long enough this time of year anyway!”

A Final Thought: Speaking of Taxes

As you go through your tax files this year (admit it—many of you waited till the last minute again), consider what you need to change for 2009. Take time now to redo your files, set up receipt records, and rethink the categories in your record books. See what worked and what didn’t work last year, and make the changes now, while you only have a couple of months’ records to go through. Get at it before the year slips away—again.



Our Staff Writers’ Blog

Get the latest insights into writing from our staff writers. So far this month, Dave Kemper has written about “Wildcat Banks Revisited” and “In regard to…regards,” Joyce Lee has explained the correct use of “‘Me’ Versus ‘I’” and Lester Smith has discussed the ubiquity of writing in “Everybody Dance Now!” Be sure to visit our blog for these and other great articles!

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