Year 2008 Writing/Communication Tips
by Lucy Paine Kezar

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Tip #86

Proofreading made easier

Spotting errors in own writing--even typographical mistakes--can be difficult. As most of us have discovered, we are most likely to overlook our mistakes when we proofread immediately after writing.

It is helpful to have another person proofread our text, provided that that person has some skill in this area. Here are three other tips.

1. Allow time to elapse between writing and the proofreading: a few hours or, even better, a day or more.

2. When reading your text onscreen convert it to larger type, perhaps 14-point. The larger typesize will alter the rhythm of your reading by changing the line lengths, and will also make errors “jump out at you.”

3. Read the piece backward, line by line. If it’s a short document, read it backward word by word!


Previous WritingTips on the subject of proofreading, all on the website:

In 2001:
#7, April: Proofreading our own writing

In 2003:
#32, July: What to look for in proofreading - 1.
#33, August: What to look for in proofreading - 2.
#34, September: What to look for in proofreading - 3.

In 2006:
#73, December: Quick and easy proofreading


Looking ahead to Saturday, Happy Groundhog Day.

Lucy


Lucy Paine Kezar
Communicate for Results!
www.KezarTraining.com


Tip #87

Brevity and style: omitting unnecessary words.

Clear and concise writing is appropriately brief.  By eliminating unnecessary words we can add clarity and impact to our text.
There are several ways of doing this.  Here is one:  Substitute a single adjective or adverb for a phrase or clause.

In each of the following three examples the shorter sentence follows the longer version.

1.  Photo close-ups that we see on magazine covers are nearly always digitally enhanced.
  Magazine-cover photo close-ups are nearly always digitally enhanced..

2. I built this device with tools that were available to me.
  I built this device with available tools.

3.. He spoke in a hesitant manner.
  He spoke hesitantly.

For stylistic reasons we occasionally choose longer forms. In most of our writing, however, we communicate best in shorter, clearer, statements.

Happy Leap Day, known to some as Sadie Hawkins' Day.

Lucy

Lucy Paine Kezar
Communicate for Results!
www.KezarTraining.com

 


Tip #88

Preposition at the end of a sentence?

The idea that one should never end a sentence with a preposition is a non-rule often proclaimed as a rule.

Where did this non-rule come from?
(There’s an example, right there! That sentence ends with a preposition!)

Linguists generally agree that the idea came first from Latin, where it IS a rule, and subsequently from the 1926 edition of Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage.
Whether or not to end a sentence with a preposition is a question of style, not of correctness. Sentences ending in that manner are often conversational, sometimes awkward. An example of both characteristics is: "Have you decided whom you’re going to send invitations to?"

On the other hand, contemplate Shakespeare’s "We are such stuff as dreams are made on."" Consider such statements as "Few people understand what Holocaust survivors have been through."

In legend or in fact, Winston Churchill reportedly illustrated the silliness of this non-rule by writing, to an editor who had objected to Churchill’s having ended a sentence with a preposition, "This is the kind of impertinence up with which I shall not put."

Lucy

Lucy Paine Kezar
Communicate for Results!
www.KezarTraining.com


Tip #89

Overcoming procrastination
 
In writing classes that I teach, students often mention procrastination.  Here is a an earlier tip on this subject.

Tip #66 (May, 2006)

Do you procrastinate before writing?  Do you dread certain writing tasks?  Here are suggestions for breaking through the procrastination barrier.

1.  Be aware of your body clock and write at your most alert time of day.  Anything is easier during that portion of your day.

2.  Start in the middle of your document.  If you’re "hung up" on the lead sentence or paragraph, begin with middle sections.  As you write, ideas for an opening will occur to you.

3.  Write the piece in small portions, in short sessions.

4.  Consider dictating it into a tape recorder or using voice-recognition software.  Simply speaking your message, at first, may be easier than writing it.  If the language is too conversational you can easily fix that later.

5.  Don’t be a perfectionist.  Remember that readers and audiences are not seeking perfection in your message.  Rather, they welcome writing or speaking that holds their attention and connects with their needs and interests.

Any or all of these approaches may make the process easy and even enjoyable!

Happy springtime,

Lucy

Lucy Paine Kezar
Communicate for Results!
www.KezarTraining.com


Tip #90

The closing sentence

 In discussions of writing we usually hear about the all-important opening sentence.  The CLOSING sentence is equally important; it’s our "signoff."  It can enhance readers’ or listeners’ overall impression of the message.

In formal writing certain endings are often expected.  An example is the brief summary statement: nearly always a suitable ending.  In writing that offers creative freedom, however, we have choices.  These include:

  1. End with a rhetorical question.  Example: "What are your plans for career growth?"
  2. End with a call to action:  Example:  "Join us in working to improve the local environment."
  3. End with a quotation.
  4. End with an inclusive statement:  "You will benefit…."

In seasonal activities, spring is a time of both endings and beginnings. Enjoy!

Lucy

Lucy Paine Kezar  /  Kezar Communications  /  www.KezarTraining.com


Tip #91

Humor


Summer is here, a time for lightness.  How do we incorporate humor into our writing or speaking?

Most writers consider humor-writing a challenge.  Professional comedy-writers often report spending hours on the wording of short passages, since in some kinds of comic writing every word can either add or detract.

A guideline: THE BEST HUMOR COMES FROM OUR OWN LIVES.

We can learn to see our own experiences as sources of humor.  These include incidents that did NOT amuse us at the times when they occurred.  For example, most of us can find funny material in memories of our own child-and-adolescent years.

By contrast, if we use humor written by others, even passages from seemingly obscure Internet or print sources, we risk using material that readers or audience have already encountered.  This is one of several reasons why we should never present someone else's material as our own.

Finding the humor in our lives makes life more fun-a bonus!

Lest we forget:
Professional humorists usually carry notebooks or recording devices wherever they go.  When an idea occurs, the humorist makes note of it immediately, since funny ideas can be fleeting.

In 2004 I wrote a series of five WritingTips on humor.  I invite you to visit these on the website.

Tip #39 (February) Humor - 1 -- Jokes.
Tip #41 (April) Humor - 2. Funny personal stories: are they portable?
Tip #43 (June) Humor - 3. Exaggeration
Tip #45 (August) Humor - 4. "I'm not funny."
Tip #47 (October) Humor - 5. The setup and punch.

Lucy

Lucy Paine Kezar  /  Kezar Communications  /  www.KezarTraining.com


Tip #92

"Very"

 Mark Twain said, "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."

My mother offered me similar advice when I was in elementary school. On the subject of how to write an effective book report or other paper, she made a few suggestions, including "Avoid using the word 'very.'"

As a person interested in language, though not a schoolteacher, my mother (Mary Teele Paine, 1903-2001) somehow knew that children often overuse this adverb. I recall that my childhood classmates frequently used "very" in orally-presented book reports, especially in the oft-repeated statement, "This book is very interesting," said whether or not the child had found the book interesting or, in some cases, had even read it!

Should we completely avoid use of "very"? NO! Neither I nor my mother nor, I assume, Mark Twain meant that we should completely avoid this legitimate and useful word.

However, in avoiding overuse of certain popular words and phrases we can keep our writing engaging and fresh.

Lucy Paine Kezar / Kezar Communications / www.KezarTraining.com

Best regards,

Lucy


Greetings, recipients of WritingTips,

WritingTips are expanding to CommunicationTips. They will now include suggestions for spoken as well as written discourse.

Speaking and writing are linked in many ways. When we improve our skills in public and in one-on-one speaking we at the same time improve our writing skills; the reverse is also true.

After sending 92 WritingTips--begun in October of 2000— I am hearing interest in this; I am a trainer and coach in speaking as well as in writing.

I’ve renamed these suggestions CommunicationTips. I’ll use the same numbering system; Tip #93 follows.

I’ll appreciate any comments or suggestions that you’d like to send regarding this change.

Tip #93

Your telephone voice

Since listeners can't see us during phone conversations they form impressions based solely on our voices. Cell-phone transmission hasn’t improved this situation. How can we speak more effectively on the phone?

First, listen: record yourself. Hear your own telephone voice!

Place a tape recorder or other device near the phone and set it on "record" while you are talking. For ease of later listening, press "pause" when the other person is talking. Listen to the recording afterward; to save time you can do this while, for example, driving or exercising.

(Caution: You may be equipped to record entire phone conversations through your computer. This is illegal, however, except under certain conditions, in many states including New Hampshire and Massachusetts. For detailed information Google "legality recording phone conversations" or something similar. For the exercise that I’m suggesting you need to hear only your own voice.)

What might we learn when listening?

1. We may discover that on the telephone we need to speak more slowly, and with greater articulation.

2. We may need to vary our pitch and volume more than we’re doing now. It’s easy to slide into a monotone while telephoning.

3. We may discover that we were not "totally present" during some calls. About multitasking: the fact that we can do this doesn’t mean that we do all of these simultaneous tasks well; in fact, there’s evidence that we don’t!

Next month’s tip will offer more suggestions for your telephone voice. In the future there will also be more writing tips.

Best wishes on Veterans’ Day, and Happy Thanksgiving,

Lucy

Lucy Paine Kezar / Kezar Communications / www.KezarTraining.com

 


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