October 2014  
UpWrite Press Writing eTips

Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.

—Ernest Hemingway

Word Pair of the Month: augment, supplement

Sometimes it’s just a small difference that encourages the use of one word over another. That’s the case with this month’s word pair. Both words mean “to add something,” but the connotation of each is slightly different. The word augment suggests increasing something by degrees for a particular benefit, while supplement suggests an addition that is necessary to achieve a sufficient supply.

Frank consumed a power drink before the race to augment his stamina.
Mara found a second job to supplement her income.

Writers’ Forum Question

What writing skills are most important in your business? How do you make sure your employees have these skills?

John Costello of Bayonne, New Jersey, writes:

When you say “writing skills,” people tend to think in terms of actual hands-to-keyboard writing. But in my business, we do a lot of visual presentations, and writing skills such as proper grammar and spelling are critical in that area as well. Imagine a PowerPoint presentation with slides that contain misspellings or grammar errors! We’d get laughed out of the meeting room. To make sure that doesn’t happen, we have an editing department with people who line-check every bit of writing that goes on in the company. It’s totally worth it to have someone watching your grammatical back.

A solid business approach to writing is offered by André Johnson of Detroit:

Nowadays it’s common to use shortened spellings in social media. But in the business world, we run the risk of sounding flip or juvenile if we use improper grammar and misspellings. That’s why our company handbook includes a writing manual, which is handed out to every employee with the admonition to “use it.” It details essential spelling and grammar rules and includes the email addresses and phone numbers of the company grammar checkers. We encourage employees to get help if they have any questions about what words to use or how to spell them.

Nina Rosario of Milwaukee writes:

We are a manufacturer of small appliances and electronics and, as such, have different divisions with products aimed at different demographics. It’s important to write at a level that fits the reader. A product designed for a senior citizen will need a different style of copy than a product aimed at a teenager. We want our audiences to feel comfortable and to know that the company understands them and their needs. To meet that goal, each division is provided with instructions about writing for their particular audience as well as how to check the final documents for appropriate language level.

A Final Thought

It used to be that penmanship was taught in school. Nowadays keyboarding is vital, and the importance of good handwriting has fallen by the wayside. But you still have plenty of opportunities to employ your handwriting skills—greeting cards, notes, lists, and instructions for the babysitter, to name a few. So make the effort to use neat, readable penmanship. Sloppy handwriting hinders communication.

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Coming in November

Creating an Effective Visual Presentation

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