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Writing at Work
Tools for the Business Communicator from Nancy J. Schnaars, ABC
In This Issue
-- FEATURE ARTICLE: Is Blogging Right For You?
-- WRITE IT RIGHT: infer/imply
-- PLAY ON WORDS: Fun and Games at the BBC
-- BOOK REVIEW: Stoopnagle's Tale is Twisted
-- WRITER'S TOOLBOX: Reverse Dictionary
A warm welcome to our new subscribers. Due to deadlines and other commitments, this is a combined May/June edition. You'll receive your next issue in mid July. By that time, I also hope to post some new free "filler" articles on my website that you can use in your own newsletters or other publications. Watch for them at http://www.hallmarkcom.com/tools.html.
Just a reminder -- you asked to receive the newsletter, but you can easily unsubscribe at any time using the link at the bottom. Please forward the newsletter to any colleagues and friends who might be interested. Help spread good writing at work!
I'd really like your feedback about the newsletter. Are there any topics about which you want to know more, or specific grammar issues you'd like clarified? Just let me know
Blogs are proliferating these days...actually, there are millions of them now. In fact, if you didn't work, you could spend your whole day reading, posting and replying to posts about almost any subject imaginable! But today the real question is whether blogs can be harnassed as a viable communications tool for business.
If your company isn't using a blog yet, you may want to learn more about this cutting-edge medium and whether it can enhance your communications efforts. Here are some of the basics:
Q. So what's a blog?
A. A blog is shorthand for "web log," and it's simply a website that serves as a place to record and share information, news and links. Personal blogs abound, some of them edgy and hip, providing a bully pulpit for the writer's thoughts on politics, culture, world events, legal opinions, news and much more. Here's one about writing at work: Writing Blog
Q. How does a blog work?
A. You establish a web site and then use self-publishing software to easily upload content. New posts are presented first, with older posts organized and viewable by date and time. Blogging services are available that make the process simple: TypePad and Blogger are probably the most popular for personal journals, while LiveJournal, Manila and TeamPage are geared to business use. All have web sites where you can learn more.
Q. Are there any rules for blogging?
A. Not really. Unlike the mainstream media, blogs are beholden to no one but their authors and readers. That means no journalistic standards, professional editing or fact-checking. But if the object of a blog is to get others to read it, posting comments that are offensive will result in few visitors.
Q. What kind of control do you have over your blog?
A. Most of the software programs let you set privacy limits. That means you can control who sees each entry, who can access your contact information, who can leave comments and whose comments you will screen, and who can participate in polls. You can also ban certain users from your blog.
Q. How can a business use a blog to advantage?
A. There are two types of organizational blogs: those on a company intranet behind a firewall, where access is restricted to employees; and external blogs, available to anyone on the Internet, that can be used for PR, marketing and other customer-related functions. Today, some CEOs are using blogs to share personal observations with their publics.
Q. What are employee blogs used for?
A. Companies are currently using employee-only blogs for a number of applications. Here are just a few:
Actually, there are probably an infinite number of possible uses for employee blogs, limited only by an organization's imagination.
Q. If we want to use a blog for marketing, how do we get customers and prospects to find it and read it?
A. That's the beauty of a blog -- you don't have to send it like e-mail, and it can't be roadblocked with spam filters. Instead, you can post updates to your blog using RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, aka Rich Site Summary. RSS lets you deliver news, articles, previews and other information to subscribers who use software known as a "newsreader" or news aggregator to access it. Subscribers are automatically alerted when you publish new information on your blog.
Obviously the jury is still out as to whether businesses will adopt blogging as an effective way to reach their publics. But for now, a blog is a good alternative to sending our press releases that may or may not get read and for letting prospects know more about your products or services.
There are subtle differences between infer and imply, which may be why these words are so often confused. Both are verbs, with infer meaning to draw a conclusion from evidence or a premise. "I inferred from his memo that he didn't agree with the HR policy." Infer is what you, the reader or observer, concludes from a statement or person's behavior.
Imply, on the other hand, is what you want your reader or listener to conclude. It means to make a suggestion without stating it directly. "My boss implied that if I didn't meet my objectives, I could be demoted."
You can use the terms correctly if you remember that "imply" is what the sender of the message does, and "infer" is what the receiver does.
All the word lovers in the world recently had a chance to vote for their favorite word on the BBC's Fun and Games site. Think you can you guess what it was? You might be surprised -- it's a word used primarily in Britain, but it has a certain universal ring to it. With more than 8,000 responses, "kerfuffle" was number one with 57% of the vote. It means a disturbance or fuss.
On this side of the pond, the dictionary company Merriam-Webster recently posted a list of the 2004 top ten favorite words. Kerfuffle was relegated to ninth place, with "defenestration" taking the number one spot. Go figure. You can see the entire list at http://www.m-w.com/info/favorite.htm.
The BBC currently has a spelling and grammar quiz available on its site. The ten questions are fairly easy and you should be able to ace it. You can also let the Brits know what word you most often misspell, as well as your favorite grammar pet peeve.
And for those who just can't get enough of word play, here's a book that will appeal to both kids and adults, especially if you like puns and spoonerisms. Here's a little background -- a spoonerism is the transposition of sounds in a phrase, sentence or word. For instance, you might want to accuse someone of telling "a pack of lies," but in your anger you speak so fast that it comes out "lack of pies" -- not exactly the meaning you intended, but funny nonetheless. Or you try to tell your kids to "go and take a shower" but it comes out "go and shake a tower." Should definitely get a laugh out of them.
Spoonerisms take their name from the Reverend W. A. Spooner, a Dean and Warden of New College in Oxford, England, from 1876 to 1924, who supposedly got his tongue twisted frequently. Then, F. Chase Taylor, a radio personality and author in the 1930s and 40s, wrote a number of fairy tale spoonerisms, of which "Prinderella and the Since" is probably the most well known. In 1946 he published a collection of these delightful stories called "My Tale is Twisted," under the pseudonym of Colonel L. Q. Stoopnagle.
In today's version, author Keen James resurrects the Stoopnagle tales and adds information about the Colonel, the Reverend and the spoonerisms in his own book. To be really appreciated, the book should be read aloud, if you can get through it without laughing yourself silly.
A word of advice for those at work -- under no circumstances should you ever accuse your manager of moozing his (or her) larbles.
The book is available for $16.95 at Stone and Scott Publishers.
The OneLook dictionary search website is easy to use and quite comprehensive...in fact, it claims that when you search for a word, it checks more than 6 million words indexed in 970 dictionaries! The result is a list of definition links that you can follow to determine the word's meaning.
Now, the site offers a reverse dictionary that's currently in beta testing but seems to work very nicely for a writer's needs. If you're like me, you have those frustrating moments of writer's block when you just can't conjure up the right word. OneLook's reverse dictionary comes to the rescue by letting you describe a concept and get back a list of related words and phrases.
It's a great tool to use when the word is on the tip of your tongue but just won't trip off. The reverse dictionary can also be used to help solve crossword puzzle clues (the purists might say this is cheating, but a little help never hurt) or to generate a list of words in a particular category. You can also use it to answer basic identification questions, such as "What is the longest river in the world?"
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