July 2013  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Test Your Writing Acumen

One of the most misused bits of punctuation is the apostrophe. See if you can tell which of the sentences below use this little curl correctly.

  1. There were four viable applicant’s for this position.
  2. Of course, Lori had to put in her two cent’s worth.
  3. The bosses’ ideas for future advertising were distributed to all at the meeting.
  4. My three brothers-in-laws’ families joined us at the picnic.
  5. He spoke about the future of business to the class of ’13.
  6. Whether we would continue was anyones’ guess.
  7. I am tired of hearing all the can’t’s and won’t’s.
  8. Fran and Ron’s entries both won awards.

Answers can be found at the end of this newsletter.

The Traits of Writing: Voice

In writing, voice is the attitude and personality you convey through your words and structure. In general, voice in business writing can be categorized as formal, semiformal, or informal.

  • Formal voice is appropriate for serious documents such as business reports.
  • Semiformal voice is appropriate for documents such as business letters and emails, where the topic must be treated with respect, but a personal bond is equally important.
  • Informal voice is appropriate only in documents among close colleagues, concerning less-than-critical topics, such as an email announcement of a holiday party.

An appropriate voice conveys your ideas effectively, while an inappropriate voice can lose a customer (or even a job). Here are some other voice-related ideas to remember.

  • Focus on the positive. When a problem must be addressed, raise it without accusations, and then point to a positive future, based on cooperation and shared strengths. Make suggestions, and invite them from others. Just as negativity drains a reader, positivity can inspire.
  • Project confidence. If your writing sometimes seems apologetic, focus on the topic, and avoid unnecessary qualifiers like maybe, perhaps, probably, and in my opinion. Let the facts speak for themselves.
  • Avoid arrogance or braggadocio. The line between sell and oversell can be thin. While it’s great to be proud of your product or your work, bear in mind that it’s ultimately about your reader’s needs. Again, let the facts speak for themselves, and trust your reader to make the right decision. That respect will gain respect.
  • Avoid impressive language. Plain language best respects the subject and the reader. It does not draw attention to itself. Even the federal government promotes plain language these days.

As you can see, voice has a big effect on business writing. Work to make yours appropriate to the circumstances, and most helpful for your reader.

You can find more on voice beginning on page 25 in Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating in the Workplace.

Trainer Tip

Sometimes training can accomplish more than just teaching a new skill. One activity that has become popular is cross-training—a way for different departments to interact with one another. In cross-training, a worker from one department shadows someone in another. This interdepartmental communication helps employees learn better how the entire business works. The result is a more productive, more pleasant environment.

That Little Extra

Writing a business plan is more than just presenting your facts and figures. The quality of your writing can also have a strong impact on potential investors. So be sure to have someone check your final document for the seven traits we discuss in eTips, on our blog, and in our training materials: ideas, organization, voice, words, sentences, correctness, and design.

   

July 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.

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.

Email your response to writersforum@upwritepress.com. Write “July 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. There were four viable applicant’s for this position.
    Incorrect. The word “applicants” is plural but not possessive. No apostrophe.
  2. Of course, Lori had to put in her two cent’s worth.
    Incorrect. “two cents” is plural, so the apostrophe should be after the “s.”
  3. The bosses’ ideas for future advertising were distributed to all at the meeting.
    Correct. “Bosses” is plural, so the apostrophe comes after the “s.”
  4. My three brothers-in-laws’ families joined us at the picnic.
    Incorrect. This one is tricky. Even though “brothers” is plural, “law” is not, so the apostrophe should be before the “s”—“brothers-in-law’s.”
  5. He spoke about the future of business to the class of ’13.
    Correct. The apostrophe replaces a missing element—here, the “20” of the year “2013.”
  6. Whether we would continue was anyones’ guess.
    Incorrect. “Anyone” is singular, so the apostrophe should be before the “s”—“anyone’s.”
  7. I am tired of hearing all the can’t’s and won’t’s.
    Incorrect. When a word already contains an apostrophe, do not use a second one.
  8. Ken and Ron’s entries both won awards.
    Incorrect. This would have been correct if the pair together offered just one entry, but since Ken and Ron each had his own entry, each should have his own apostrophe-s—“Ken’s and Ron’s.”

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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The Traits of Writing: Words

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