July 2013  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

“It's never perfect when I write it down the first time, or the second time, or the fifth time. But it always gets better as I go over it and over it. ”

—Jane Yolen

Word Pair of the Month: beside, besides

Here’s another instance where a single letter can make a world of difference. In this case, it’s the ending letter “s.”

If the ending “s” is missing, the word is beside, which means “next to”: The car was safely parked beside the building.

If the ending “s” is there, the word is besides, which means “in addition to”: Besides the rate increase, the employees are requesting a restructuring of the sick-day rules.

Here’s a tip for keeping these words straight. Without the “s,” the word beside has more room to fit next to other words around it. By adding the “s,” you form besides, which means “in addition to.”

Some Welcome Feedback

Mike Schlater, Principal Trainer—Epic Implementation, University of Colorado Health, wrote to thank us for eTips, and to point out this additional thought about July’s edition:

Regarding “Test Your Writing Acumen,” number 8: This example demonstrates that context is very important. In your explanation, there is an assumption that either Ken (What happened to Fran?) and Ron each had his own entry, or that the two of them offered a single entry. However, a third possibility is that Ken and Ron, working together, offered two entries. In this case, the sentence “Ken and Ron’s entries both won awards” is correct.

Although our purpose was to contrast two grammatical constructions, Mike makes an excellent point about a third possibility. And we also congratulate him for catching the change from Fran to Ken in the answer section.

July Writers’ Forum Question

Do you do a lot of writing in your job? Share with us your most important tip for creating an effective piece of work-related writing.

George Hardwick of St. Louis has this bit of advice for workplace writing:

My most important tip is this: Lose the “I.” When writing to customers or clients, focus on what they need rather than on your point of view. For example, instead of saying “I will provide the best service,” say “You deserve the best service.” This makes your reader feel more important—and more inclined to use your services.

Lori Barnes of Milwaukee suggests keeping up-to-date with your phrasing:

The language you use is crucial for attracting business and connecting with your reader. I try to avoid tired, overused expressions like “at the end of the day,” but I also refrain from using trendy phrases or street slang, like “cray.” Keep your language universal and clear. And never use the shortened spelling that’s found in texts and tweets. Write the whole word, please. (And spell it correctly!)

Dwayne Harris of Charleston, North Carolina, employs this tried-and-true trick:

To make sure every sentence is complete, I read from the end of the piece to the beginning, sentence by sentence. This not only ensures that my words make sense, it also flags any incomplete sentences, because they don’t make sense when they stand alone.

Luci Lee of Sacramento offers this suggestion:

Be clear and stay focused. Don’t go off track. Any piece of work-related writing has a single purpose, and you need to stick with it to make your point. Go through the first draft and cut out anything that doesn’t directly relate to your purpose.

Finally, Tina Rodriguez of Chicago writes:

My best advice? Proofread your writing. Then have someone else proofread it, too. Make sure it is perfect before you send it out. Your writing reflects on you. If it is full of errors, you come off as uneducated or lazy.

A Final Thought

Do you use social media in your business? Sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have become major players in the business world. What was once thought to be a silly, teen-oriented playground has grown into a powerful promotional tool. If you don’t use social media, you should consider it. And if you’ve already dived in, remember this: Even though a casual tone is inherent in social-media communications, always maintain the level of businesslike formality that pegs you as a serious contender in your field.

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The Traits of Writing: Words

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