December 2014  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.

—James Michener

Word Pair of the Month: bad, badly

Are you ever confused about whether to use bad or badly, especially with linking verbs like feel or smell? Just remember that bad is an adjective and correctly follows such linking verbs:

That dog smells bad.

I feel bad about the misunderstanding.

On the other hand, badly is an adverb and correctly describes action verbs:

The dog behaves badly in the vet’s office.

I performed badly in that role.

Keep these examples in mind to help you choose between bad and badly in your communications.

Writers’ Forum Question

Here come the winter holidays! How does your business use writing to acknowledge your clients or customers?

G. James Nelson, a financial planner in Hartford, Connecticut, writes:

We send out physical holiday cards, and each includes a personal, handwritten note from the client’s main contact in the office. We’re not a huge office, so we can manage this well enough, but even if we had many more clients, we would still try to do this. It’s important to remind our clients, and ourselves, that we are dedicated to them on a personal level.

Makaylah Harris writes about how her Atlanta law office handles holiday greetings:

We pride ourselves on being green, so instead of wasting paper, we send out digital greeting cards. These are generic and non-religious but still present the positive and hopeful sentiments of the season. To avoid an assembly-line feeling, we include a personal note for every recipient.

Stephen Alcott, who runs a religious nonprofit organization, writes:

We feel that spending money on cards and postage diminishes our capacity to help the needy. So we invite all donors to a holiday potluck instead. Those who attend can meet and mingle with the families who benefit from their generosity. It’s always the highlight of our year, and our donors enjoy it as much as our workers and recipients do.

A Final Thought

The familiar quotation “The pen is mightier than the sword” appears in the play Richelieu: or, The Conspiracy, written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839. This sentiment goes back even farther, however. In 1796, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Thomas Paine, “Go on doing with your pen what in other times was done with the sword.” And long before that, the prophet Muhammad (570-632) wrote, “The ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr.” Going back another thousand years or so, the Assyrian sage Ahiqar is credited with this thought: “The word is mightier than the sword.”

Whenever the sentiment was first presented, its meaning is clear: Words are powerful agents of change in this world. Whether that change is positive or negative is up to the writer. So use words carefully. Be sure that they say what you intend them to say. Then, perhaps, to quote Mahatma Gandhi, you can “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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