April 2013  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

“Words—so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”

—Nathaniel Hawthorne

Word Pair of the Month: chord, cord

These words are frequently misused, but don’t let that happen to you! Here’s what you need to know:

When referring to a rope or electrical cable, use the word cord.

We taped the electrical cord down firmly so no one would trip on it.

When referring to three or more musical notes that are played at the same time, add the “h” to spell the word chord.

The modern symphony ended on a dissonant chord.

April Writers’ Forum Question

What’s your biggest annoyance with the written materials that come across your desk? What mistakes do you see most often?

Sammi Browne, an HR manager in Cincinnati, sees plenty of annoying errors.

You wouldn’t believe the mistakes people make on their job applications! It’s especially frustrating when I think someone might fit a job opening, but I find spelling or grammar errors in their résumés. The most common errors I see are found in lists: for example, putting periods after incomplete sentences, or using capitals inconsistently at the beginnings of list items. Errors like these make me wonder how attentive to job details the person would be.

David Steiner of New York says it’s the disjoint communication that is most bothersome.

I have noticed a real deterioration in sentence structure lately. Maybe it’s an adaptation to the shortened style of text messages and tweets, but it seems that complete, more complex sentences are becoming rarer in business communication. Choppy phrasing and poor sentence flow are almost epidemic. We really need to stress to writers that different media require different writing styles. One size does not fit all.

Ajit Kaul, also of New York, finds too many spelling errors and misused words in written materials.

I often see either the wrong word or a misspelled word used. Part of the problem is that people rely too heavily on spell-checkers, and those programs don’t catch homophones. I think it would help if, after using the spell-checker, the writer asked a coworker to read over the document. Of course, being well grounded in the spelling rules would also help.

We received the most complaints about apostrophe misuse, an annoyance most vigorously stated by Janine Kramer of Seattle.

Why don’t people realize that misplaced apostrophes look really stupid? People omit them where they belong and put them where they don’t. I see apostrophe mistakes everywhere, and it really irritates me to see them on billboards and in online ads. When that happens, I make a mental note NOT to buy that product. Come on, people, it’s basic punctuation!

A Final Thought

What impression does your font make? Whether on your company letterhead or personal business card, the way your name or initials are presented does matter. Have you used a typestyle that implies a serious, solid business, or one that suggests a whimsical, fun pastime? Think long and hard about how those letters represent you, and choose accordingly.

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