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Using Performatives in Business Writing: Words that Act

I’m sorry.It’s okay.
We need the paperwork by Friday.
The holding tank might explode.
I think that restructuring is a good idea.

What do these statements have in common? They are weather reports, informing the reader of feelings, needs, situations, and thoughts. Whether stated explicitly or not, their purpose is to inform. If all you are doing is reporting the weather, informing is fine.

But if you want people to think, feel, or act differently, simply informing is weak.

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Learning from Good Writing: Using Visual Images

Sometimes it’s easier to learn by looking at examples of jobs well done. Here are a few sentences that illustrate a principle we teach in the Worktalk writing trainings: Create visual images. Abstractions do not move people the way images do. The more you can engage your reader’s senses — sight, sound, smell, taste and touch — the more impact your words will have.

But for most public opinion in Europe the war in Iraq was always a stretch too far, and a decade of body bags has blunted the European appetite for expeditionary warfare at America’s side.
The Economist

The image of body bags brings home the reality of war much more than a word like fatality  or casualty.

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Commonly Misused Words 3: Wisdom from 1922

Here are a few more fine distinctions from the 1922 pamphlet S.O.S. Slips of Speech by Frank H. Vizetelly, Litt.D., L.L.D.

1.     Hypercritical/Hypocritical

Hypercritical means overly or excessively critical.

Hypocritical signifies deceptive, sham, for hypocrisy is false pretense.

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Commonly Misused Words 2: Wisdom from 1922

Last week I gave a few examples of words and distinctions made clear in a pamphlet from 1922 titled S.O.S.: Slips of Speech. Here are a few more excerpts. Statements in parentheses are mine.

Divide Up
As divide means to “separate into pieces,” “cut asunder,” “apportion,” or “distribute in shares,”, up is redundant and absurd.

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Why choose WorkTalk trainings?

  • Taught by a professional writer. +

    These courses are not taught by a general skills trainer who happens to teach writing. Elizabeth Danziger has been published by major publishing houses such as Random House and Harcourt Brace. Her work has appeared in many national magazines. She is an expert writer and editor who brings her knowledge as a resource to participants.
  • Customized. +

    Every Worktalk training is customized to the client's needs. We meet with you, analyze writing samples from your organization, and customize our training to target the specific challenges that employees in your organization face.
  • Energetic and entertaining. +

    With plenty of exercises and opportunities for interaction, the Worktalk trainings move quickly. Subjects that were terrifying in grammar school become fun and interesting in these outstanding programs.
  • Proven results. +

    In trainings all over the country, Ms. Danziger has enabled participants to streamline their organizing process, eliminate persistent errors, and drastically cut their revision time. Clients spend less time on key communications while producing better relationships and results. Sales people get more positive responses from prospects.
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