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Hello {name}! Welcome to the May edition of business writing ideas from Word Constructions!

Well the end of April certainly delivered the start of winter (weather-wise that is) - or maybe I just feel that way because I spent the weekend in a tent with our scout group!

May also means we're facing the federal budget soon and the financial year is in its last weeks, too. Not much we can do to influence the budget at this point but it is a good time to get your accounts into order before 30 June. Some of my clients are impacted by the budget so I often have a busy couple of days afterwards, updating web copy and writing blog articles.

As always, I think the little details are important, even in big projects. A few months ago, a software supplier for a client updated the back end of the program. Everything went well, my client tested it and the new program went live without a hitch. Last week, we discovered that the reporting section of the program (ie the area staff log into to gather usage data) had also been updated to a new URL as part of the transition. The supplier missed the little detail of informing their client of this change so the old URL was providing inaccurate results.

Amongst all the details of getting the program right, sending an email about a new URL seemed little and was easily missed. However, it has caused concern for the client and damaged the supplier's reputation and relationship. These little details, that can have big consequences, are best included in project checklists and procedures so that the project is incomplete until they are done. A project template could have 'inform client of access details' or similar as a default entry.

Until next time, use your words wisely,



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The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor
~ Vince Lombardi

business communications article by Tash Hughes

Having things in writing
By Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

I have had a recent experience with a new client that reminded me how important it is to have things in writing.

The client outlined the project on the phone and I thought I was writing a flyer based on their rough notes. I asked for those notes to be emailed to me and was surprised to get four slogans in return - I expected an outline of points and ideas to be included, he had a few slogans to be incorporated so we obviously had different ideas of what was needed from me.

I'm certainly glad I do not quote on the spot as I would have badly underestimated my time commitments from the phone conversation!

More importantly, once I had his notes and was able to send an email reply outlining my understanding of the project, we were both confident of mutual understanding and the project progressed nicely.

Having arrangements in writing means:

  1. you can clarify details to be sure everyone has the same understanding
  2. you can spot issues or gaps quickly
  3. you can refer back to notes rather than rely on your memory, which is especially important if you are busy or tired
  4. if things go wrong later, you have a record of what was requested to help resolve the issue
  5. it is easier to pass parts of the work to others, such as employees or sub-contractors

A green web host is appealing but their great service and reliability keep me with Digital Pacific

don't forget the basics

What which to use
By Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

Most of the time, people instinctively use which and what in the right context so it can be quite grating when they are misused.

The word which really means 'which one' and is used when discussing a limited number of items, such as in these examples:

Which maths teacher do you prefer?
Try both flavours then tell us which tastes sweeter
Which suburbs does the bus go through?
{from someone who knows the area so is asking for names}
The survey asked which internet browser I use

However, the word 'what' is used when there is a broader group to choose from, and often means 'what type of' rather than asking for a specific answer.

What is your favourite drink?
What ice cream would you like?
What suburbs does the bus go through?
{for someone less familiar with the area who wants an answer such as 'the southern suburbs' or '5 suburbs between here and the beach'}
What books do you read? {expecting an answer such as 'crime books' or 'short books' rather than specific titles}

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I have bought a number of books from The Nile, including business and school text books - with free delivery, one book at a time is feasible too

poor examples

Sometimes, the easiest way to learn the correct way to do something is to see it done poorly so in this section of my newsletter, I show you some real-life examples of writing that need a little help. It may just show you how easy it is to make mistakes, too.

Maybe it's just disappointment in my industry, but I find poor writing from someone who claims to 'share writing and business expertise' worse than similar errors from other people. Today's example is from an article used by a 'professional writer' as a guest blog post.


Make a survey where your potential clients are legitimate members of what social media platform? Creating a solid social media tactic will surely improve your overall performance. The only aspect that you must be willing to share is your time, since you need to spend some hours in a day to update your account and know what your consumers needs and wants are.

Issues with this example:

Is that first sentence a statement or a question? Punctuation helps give meaning to the written word, but how does adding a question mark here help? At best, it implies she doesn't know if the sentence is correct and is asking for feedback on it.

'Make a survey' is clumsy and about two words too long - simply writing 'survey' will do the job much more effectively.

'what social platform' should be 'which social media platform' - see the basics article above!

A tactic is a single move within a plan; a strategy or plan is an overall picture of how you will work towards a goal. In 2012, a social media strategy is a good idea - even if that strategy is just to monitor things until it better suits your business.

'The only aspect you must be willing to share' - aspect of what? This could also be written in fewer words such as 'Time is the only aspect you must share'.

The definition of since is the period between two specified times or because. So it is correctly used as 'You need to survey potential clients since you want to connect with them'. In today's poor example, the writer has effectively written 'share your time because you need to spend some hours doing it'. Instead of finding an alternative to 'since you need', I would just merge the first two parts of that sentence to something like 'You must allocate time as it will take hours each day to...' - simpler to read and understand so more effective.

'Spend some hours in a day' is presumably meant to be 'spend some hours each day'. It would be more useful if 'some hours' was defined, too - and I am not sure that social media does require multiple hours' work everyday unless social media itself is your main purpose. I am sure most businesses can't afford that much time each day!

For clear understanding for the reader, it would have been much better to separate these ideas into different paragraphs. This single paragraph is cluttered and covers three important points - survey clients, allocate time and create a social media strategy - each of which is worthy of a paragraph.

Personally, I don't like the assumption that every business has to be on social media (I agree it has advantages but it doesn't suit every business) nor the idea of implying potential clients would be illegitimate memebrs of soemthing, but I'm focussing on the poor writing!

An improved version would be: (with minimal adjustments of words and meaning)

Create a solid social media strategy to improve your overall performance. Ensure you have researched which (if any) social media platform your potential clients use.

You must be willing to spend time on updating your profiles and understanding your customers' needs and wants.

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2012, Tash Hughes