Friday, October 27, 2006

You Gotta Ac-cent-uate...

When you write, you may not always feel positive. You may feel complacent, or angry and vindictive. But if you allow such feelings to shape your writing, you will probably regret it. The anger will pass, but the words will stay. If you find yourself writing in anger, stop. Pound the desk or stomp the floor. Get it out of your system before you put it on paper.

Negative: Without your social security number, we can't trace your record.

Positive: If you will give us your social security number, we will be glad to trace your record.

Negative: Your order will not be processed until we hear from your representative.

Positive: We will be happy to process your order as soon as we hear from your representative.

Also check your work for multiple negatives. Such pairings, shown in brackets, are often impossible to untangle:

Confusing: Caffeine is a drug and is [not] lacking in [un]wanted side effects.

Improved: Caffeine is a drug with unwanted side affects.

Confusing: If you think of writing as a step-by-step process, you will [ never] have the sense of [not] knowing where to begin.

Improved: If you think of writing as a step-by-step process, you will always have a place to begin.

Give Your Writing a Smile

Avoid using inflammatory phrases such as we can' t, we won' t, you must, you have to, you neglected, you overlooked, you failed to, you claim, we will be forced to, etc. Such expressions make readers feel that you are writing down to them. On the other hand, if you treat them the way you would like to be treated, if you try to send positive messages, you will probably receive positive messages in return.

There may be times, however, when positive expression alone will not help you fulfill your purpose. When that time comes, discuss the circumstances with someone whose judgment you trust.



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