I am guilty. Yes, I, the Word Doctor, the professed Grammar Guru, have been guilty of using the incorrect word in a context. **gasp** Shocking, I know. But I never claimed to be perfect!
I caught myself speaking with someone about having less tasks to do than usual. Something felt odd, but it wasn't until later that I realized what. The use of the word "less." I should have said "fewer"!
You see, our language is wonky (as if you didn't know). More is more, no matter what the context. More time, more money, more to do, more pencils, more cats...it all works.
But in the "less than" category, there's a difference. Less refers to a smaller amount of one thing, or one insubstantial. You can have less time, less money, less to do, less hair, etc.
Fewer refers to a smaller quantity of several items. Fewer people, fewer pencils, fewer cats, fewer hairs on the head, fewer marbles.
Get the idea?
As with so much in modern English grammar, this is a relatively minor transgression, but can be an important consideration when writing something meant for general publication - a book or an article, perhaps. In these more professional settings, understanding the difference will lead to fewer refusals and less stress!
Unless you're a graphic designer, you may not think often about fonts, but if you have any online presence at all, they are important. In fact, if you've ever made a sign they're important too!
This post was inspired by the copious moving and garage sale signs I've seen this summer that are completely illegible from the road. The lettering is either too faint, or too small, or too sloppy. The lesson: what is the purpose of what you're writing? Does your copy work for that audience?
Now I'm not as addicted to fonts as Brock on "The Middle" (see what I mean here), but I do know that appearance and size of your copy is important to legibility, impact, and mood (yes, mood). If I want to evoke a playful mood and have something light to say, a sans serif font without much structure is appropriate (Comic Sans, Kristen, MV Boli). On a website like this, a serif font is important for easy legibility. Serif fonts are also used in formal business letters and documents.
Sorry, but size IS important! Bet you can't read this well. And this is WAY too big for a website unless it's a heading.
Color is also important. Be sure that there is contrast between your background and the text. I've seen badly designed websites and newsletters that have a brown background, for instance, with a lighter brown font.
In this digital age, there are hundreds of downloadable choices available to enhance your writing, whether on paper or virtual. Explore your options and consider your audience!
I have had several conversations regarding clients and associates either wanting to write a book or wanting to finalize one. Now, "book" is a loose term meaning everything from a short handout or e-book to a 30,000-word tome. In any case, there is something the person wants to communicate to others, something from the heart or the mind.
Just about everyone has some sort of book in them. You may excel at some sort of creative art and want to teach others. You may have profound realizations that changed your life and you want to share them with others. You may want to inspire people to do their best in the workplace, or the home, or in nature. So...big question...what is stopping you?
Now, two people I've spoken with in the last year had been "working" on a book for literally years. They'd get motivated and write or edit, then run out of steam. Why? Usually fear. In fact one person actually told me she had no desire to be noticed - I have to wonder, then, why publish? What's fascinating about that case is that, close to the end of our process, she became very angry about the fact that low resolution images could not be used in her self-published book, and quit her process entirely. I know that her fear created an "excuse" for her to not step out and be known. I hope she was able to resolve that, as her topic was a really good one.
Two clients have worked with me to assemble wonderful blog posts into a book. The writing is already done! Just a matter of patchwork to get it all to flow. One self-published a paperback, and the other created an e-book for download.
One former client is a career search expert - and I mean expert! She worked hard to assemble her best systems for success into a book, and she has the marketing knowledge to really make a go of it. How exciting!
Bottom line: If you feel inspired to share knowledge with others, do not let fear hold you back. There is a reason you felt inspired: someone needs to know or understand what you have to say. Write! Just WRITE! Get it all out on paper, then organize and see what can come of it.
You can do this!
And when you're ready, contact The Word Doctor!
Whether you work at home or outside the home, dealing with distractions and interruptions is a given. But how often do you allow yourself to take a break?
Editing and writing for clients takes great focus and concentration. Believe it or not, it's true that the brain uses 20% of the body's energy when at rest. AT REST! Imagine how much more power is needed during focused work. This is why I do my work when I'm at my best, and I take frequent breaks.
A break in your work can be viewed as an interruption or distraction, but it's the intent that matters. If you catch yourself frequently checking social media or personal email, or if you get antsy and leave your work space often, you are distracted and not paying attention to your personal needs - these are not "break" actions. They are procrastination!
Instead, intend to refresh yourself, body, mind and spirit, so that you have more energy (and lighter energy) to continue having a productive work day.
I have often been guilty of ignoring my body when I'm busy. I'm in my home office, working on my computer, concentrating - while at the same time sitting stiffly, breathing shallowly. On some days I feel terribly hyperactive, restlessly looking out the window, or twitching my feet. I have learned to notice those messages my body is sending me, and I do something about them!
Check in with your body and notice what it needs - water? Deep breathing? Resting your eyes? Movement? Then fill the need. Take a 2-minute walk (outside if you can). Drink eight ounces of water. Have a small, light, healthy snack. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Stretch and move your body - get the blood flowing!
I know that when I take even two minutes to do one (or all) of the above, my mind is fresh, my body is loosened, and my spirit feels lighter. And my productivity goes through the roof!
"I just had a baby looking for a job to work at home anybody let me I have great Information technology and networking skills."
This request came from a social media post I ran across. Granted it's "just" social media, this young woman was requesting job leads, and yet her post was so poorly written I can't imagine she got many leads from it.
You never know where your words will go, or who might see and react to them. Writing must be clear, precise, and error-free to present a professional appearance to any prospective employer, client, or customer. Your writing style gives the first impression of your intelligence, work ethic, and motivation.
You may be tempted to dismiss this thought as trivial, but think about it objectively. Let's say that someone who read this request copied it verbatim and sent it to someone who needed those services. That person will be reviewing many similar requests and resumes. and will evaluate next steps based on first impressions. The first impression of this writer is not professional.
The same applies to prospecting for new clients in your business. You want to help more people by having them hire you. What then is your first impression on others? Do your social media and blog posts appear professional? Do they clearly share the teaching and message you want to convey? Are they error-free?
I've had a few rebuttals when I share these ideas from people stating that skills and intent should be what matter. Perhaps, yes...however if your first impression creates a block in that path, then it's time to change!
(I know a great proofreader!)
When I collaborate with a client, I know that being able to easily share files is critical to smooth sailing. We need to work off the same set of documents, and we need access to all the same supporting materials.
We've all experienced the trauma (ok, maybe not trauma, but certainly stress!) of sharing documents by email. It's so easy to lose track of what changes have been made, and by whom. Instead, use a virtual "file cabinet" like Google Drive or Dropbox, or a project management system like Asana, to store items every team member will need.
Set up project folders with explicit titles so that anyone on the team can easily find what they're looking for. Within those folders, store anything, and I mean ANYTHING, that a team member might need. You might want a folder for images, one for applications, one for setup or venue - consider the aspects of your particular project that make the most sense to organize the folders.
When changes are made to a file, ensure that it's saved back into the same folder so you don't end up with multiple versions of the same document - something I see often! You may want to have team member save items they have edited as "V1 date, V2 date," so it's easy to tell at a glance what the most recent update is, and yet you will still be able to recover previous versions if something goes wrong. AND, as I said, you won't have ten of the same file saved! Tip: be sure to include the date in the file name.
Whenever I manage a project I like to outline everything up front in a team meeting, so everyone is "on the same page" about timelines, roles, and how communication will be handled. Be sure to have regular meetings with subsets of the team sharing the same roles. Set expectations up front so there are no surprises!
We're bombarded by information. Every day we receive input from emails, news feeds, phone calls, social media, television, texts, postal mail...it's overwhelming. And much of it is noise!
Here's what I mean.
Your brain receives so much data that it picks out items that are most familiar or pleasing to focus upon. The rest is merely noise, static, humming.
So think about this in the context of business communications. Every time you post on social media or send an email, are you adding to the noise or are you being noticed?
When you bombard your social media feed with unrelated posts just to get information out there, you're making noise. When you create a thoughtful, planned campaign of information sharing, you're being noticed by your followers.
When you send an e-blast just because it's on the schedule to do so, you're creating noise. When that e-blast is focused, clear, easy to read, and useful, you're being noticed.
When you write copy for your website just to fill it...yep, more noise. When that copy is refined, focused, authentic, and easily (and quickly) understood, then you're being noticed.
The next time you write something, review it with fresh eyes. Are you using more words than are necessary? Make your point concisely. Are you writing in a style that's authentic to you and your clients? Be YOU, not who you're told to be by others. Is your writing correct? Get some help from an objective third party so you don't turn off your readers.
Even speaking as an editor/proofreader and as The Word Doctor, I have to say in all honesty that grammatical perfection is overrated. "Always" is, in my estimation, an impossible goal, and usually is inappropriate.
Let me explain.
If you follow me on social media, you know that I constantly urge followers to carefully spell check and proofread their business writing, regardless of the medium. Whether a social media post, blog post, article, or email, you will be judged (right or wrong, like it or not) on how you come across to prospects. You may appear careless or ignorant when neither is true.
And yet your authentic style of communicating may be casual, friendly, and all your own. Using ellipses (...) rather than dashes or commas may be your "thing" and there is nothing wrong with that. Using words and phrases in a way that is authentic to you but not necessarily perfect AP style is just fine. You will reach those people who are drawn to not only what you say, but how you say it. Bottom line: be authentic!
There are basic rules of conduct, however: using their/they're/there correctly, lay vs. lie, proper punctuation and sentence structure, etc. Ignoring these customs is what gets writers in trouble. There's a big difference between stylistic and simply incorrect. "Incorrect" leads to not only judgment, but mis-interpretation of your message.
When you're writing casually for friends and family, as long as your message is clear I can't see why it must be perfect...unless you're even more of a grammar nerd than I am! But as I've stated so often, in business writing, perfection balanced with authenticity is the way to go.
Wisdom...or a great proofreader...understands the balance!
Have you ever noticed two people having a conversation but neither is hearing the other? I have experienced that myself - haven't we all? Did you realize there are levels of comprehension involved?
Hearing is, of course, the mechanical, physical act of perceiving sound. You hear words and comprehend them. Listening is active...you pay attention to what you are hearing. You focus, sit in silence, and take in the words and their meaning, while observing subtle cues like facial expressions and body language.
Understanding is another level entirely. What you take in is not always what is expressed. You each come from your own unique viewpoint, history, communication styles, and word usage.
To communicate effectively in a conversation, you can check in with the other person to validate what you're understanding. "What I hear you saying is...." "So, you think that...." You may find that you either missed a point, or misunderstood entirely, and this gives the other person a chance to reword their message.
Too often in our culture we listen with the intent to respond. Of course conversation is a give-and-take exchange, but true listening has the intent to understand, not always respond. Worst of all is when someone responds with, "Well, I...." Immediately turning the focus on yourself completely negates the message of the other person.
A form of listening also occurs in written exchanges like text or email. Using the correct words in the correct context, tailoring your message for your audience, and asking for feedback can help smooth the path to clear understanding. As a "listener" to a written conversation, be sure to read carefully and take the time for full comprehension before responding.
Becoming more mindful in conversation, both written and verbal, can lead to clearer understanding and better relationships!
I'll bet you know a couple of people who are very gifted in some way...a superb artist or singer, a powerful healer, a talented mechanic. We could debate for hours on what "gift" means, whether it's a gift from God/Universe as a trait from birth, or whether it's something learned...that old nature/nurture debate.
The fact remains, though, that although we all may know how to do something (use a paintbrush or a screwdriver), we may not be able to do it well, or intuitively.
In these cases, the gift is the intuition, the effortlessness of the action. When you use your gift, you don't have to think hard about what needs to be done, you just do it.
I've finally come to realize that my gift (yes, I'm tooting my own horn) is in editing. Aside from understanding the right/wrong of proofreading, when I edit I just somehow know what words could be changed or phrasing tweaked to perfectly express an author's idea. I can actually feel the energy of words. I couldn't begin to explain it or teach it...it's an innate ability in my brain and my spirit. Words are my "thing" and I'm blessed to be able to share that gift with others.
I'd love to hear your examples and stories of how gifted people you know use their talents. Please share!