Simple, clear help for your writing problems

Archives for May, 2009

Writing Problems Heard Lately

I’ve attended a few programs lately where people have delivered prepared speeches. Sadly, several of those speeches have suffered from distracting writing problems. People asked to speak extemporaneously often stammer incomprehensible nonsense, but that’s easy to forgive: it’s hard to think on your feet in front of a crowd. On the other hand, when you deliver a speech that you wrote in advance, there is no excuse for being incoherent. Don’t let your writing problems ruin your speeches.

In Addition…

In one program I attended, a speaker was describing accomplishments of an honoree. After listing two or three accomplishments, the speaker used the following transition: In addition, he also performs in…

The statement contains redundant words. The speaker should have said, In addition, he performs… or, He also performs in…

Are You Married to Your Spouse?

How often have you heard a declaration similar to this? I’m Susie and I’m married to my husband Jim. Oh! My! Goodness! I’m Susie, and my husband’s name is Jim. How hard was that? If you don’t like it, try, I’m Susie, and I’m married to Jim. Please trust you listeners to figure out that you’re married to your husband! Last time I checked, that was part of the definition of being married… or of being a husband.

 

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I’m convinced that the greatest of all writing problems is laziness. People simply don’t listen to the words they write, and they publish nonsense. Worse, people hear bad writing, and indiscriminately repeat it in their own projects. This exposes more people to the bad writing, and some of them repeat it, and so on. Eventually, the writing problems of the original hack writer become writing problems of us all.

If You Want to know More

I’ve heard this awkward announcement hundreds of times: More information is available by calling this toll-free number…

Radio newscasters often end public service announcements with such a sentence. They shouldn’t. The sentence is nonsense. It begins by telling us More information is available by calling… This is weird. Who or what is calling? The information certainly isn’t calling. Information can be available from a source, at a source, through a source… but not by an action.

By the same token, you can get information by carrying out an action: by reading, by listening, by asking, by making a phone call…

Write a Real Sentence

Here are four grammatically correct expressions that convey the desired message:

Get more information by calling this toll-free number…

To get more information, dial this toll-free number…

More information is available. Get it by calling this toll-free number…

Call this toll-free number to get more information…

As easy as it was to think of these, it awes me that so many people so often spew the nonsensical More information is available by calling… Don’t be one of those people.

 

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