November 2012  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Test Your Writing Acumen

This month, let’s test your understanding of subject-verb agreement. In each of the following sentences, choose the verb (singular or plural) that agrees with the subject.

  1. Neither Allan nor Alecia (is, are) prepared for the meeting.
  2. None of the participants (has, have) registered for the session.
  3. Many in the office (plans, plan) to attend the program.
  4. Either the designer or his assistants (was, were) supposed to be here for the presentation.
  5. There (is, are) many ways to approach the problem.
  6. Few (expects, expect) the issue to be resolved today.
  7. The financial news (predicts, predict) an upturn.
  8. Each of the salespeople (wants, want) that account.
  9. The board (is, are) developing a new mission statement.
  10. The board (is, are) highly qualified, each with a separate expertise.

Answers can be found at the end of this newsletter.

Revision Tips

The revision step in the writing process involves looking for problems in a document and providing solutions. Here are the areas that need attention:

  • Ideas. Zero in on the main ideas you wish to present. Make sure they are clearly stated and fully supported with necessary details. Clarify any confusing parts and offer explanations and examples where needed.
  • Organization. Examine your opening, middle, and closing sections for order and flow. Does the opening clearly present your main idea? Are your middle paragraphs in the right order, moving logically from one point to the next? Does your closing clearly restate the main idea and summarize important points?
  • Voice. Maintain a voice that is confident and convincing, with the right level of formality for the situation. In the main, use active rather than passive verbs. (Write: Always enter the building by the East Street door rather than The building must be entered by the East Street door.)
  • Words. Use vivid, succinct words to send a clear, direct message. Eliminate extraneous or flowery words that only take up space on the page.
  • Sentences. Trim any rambling sentences and combine short ones where it makes sense to do so. Use a variety of sentence types and lengths and begin some of them with transitions so the reader can move easily from one thought to the next.

Remember, revision is for the big changes—rewriting sentences, moving blocks of information, adding or deleting content. Don’t worry so much about your mechanics yet—that comes with the next step, editing, which we will discuss next month.

You can find more about revising on pages 82-87 in Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating in the Workplace.

Trainer Tip

Take a cue from school teachers and create a rubric for your next training session. A rubric is simply a set of goals you wish to reach, along with guidelines for measuring how well you meet them. Teachers often hand out rubrics before an assignment so that students know precisely what to aim for. You, too, can use a rubric to evaluate the success of a training session and to reinforce its aims. With a rubric in hand, attendees can get an overview of the material and, after the session, consider and review what they have learned. Furthermore, if you ask for comments, participants can use the rubric to guide their responses, which will help you to identify content you may want to reinforce or revise in future sessions.

That Little Extra

Horticulturists prune plants not only for aesthetic reasons but also for matters of health and fruitfulness. You can trim your writing for similar benefits. When you draft a piece of writing, sentences and words sprout like branches and leaves. Sometimes, you may need to pare back a little in order to best communicate with your reader.

To put it another way, as William Strunk Jr. famously stated, “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

   

November 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.

How does communication work in your workplace? Give us your best advice for establishing a healthy, efficient pathway to understanding between offices, departments, and individuals.

Email your response to writersforum@upwritepress.com. Write “November 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. Neither Allan nor Alecia (is, are) prepared for the meeting.
    Since both words in the compound subject are singular and joined by “nor,” the subject is singular, taking the singular verb is. If, instead, the words were joined by “and,” the compound subject (Both Allan and Alecia) would be plural, taking the plural verb are.
  2. None of the participants (has, have) registered for the session.
    The indefinite pronoun “none,” the subject of this sentence, can be either singular or plural, depending on the object of the preposition in the phrase that follows it. Since “participants” is plural, the verb is correctly plural.
  3. Many in the office (plans, plan) to attend the program.
    The indefinite pronoun “many” is plural, taking the plural verb plan.
  4. Either the designer or his assistants (was, were) supposed to be here for the presentation.
    When a compound subject made up of a singular and a plural word is joined by “or,” the verb must agree with the subject nearest it.
  5. There (is, are) many ways to approach the problem.
    Even when a subject is delayed, coming after the verb, the verb must agree with it. In this case, the subject “ways” is plural, taking the plural verb are.
  6. Few (expect, expects) the issue to be resolved today.
    The indefinite pronoun “few” is plural, taking the plural verb expect.
  7. The financial news (predicts, predict) an upturn.
    The subject “news,” like the words “mathematics,” “economics,” and others, is a special noun that is plural in form but singular in meaning. It takes the singular verb predicts.
  8. Each of the salespeople (wants, want) that account.
    The indefinite pronoun “each” is singular, taking the singular verb wants.
  9. The board (is, are) developing a new mission statement. Here the collective noun “board” is considered a single entity, taking the singular verb is.
  10. The board (is, are) highly qualified, each with a separate expertise.
    In this case, the collective noun “board” indicates multiple individual members, and so is plural, taking the plural verb are.

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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