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Take these small steps to make a big difference in your business writing BY JENNY MCCUNE can Gatzmeyer CPS/CAP, an executive assistant at Archway Marketing Ser- wccs, a customer-service call-center outsourcer in Rogers, Minnesota, still recalls receiving an e-mail where a com- pany touted its "qaulity." "I couldn't believe that quality was misspelled," says Gatzmeyer. "How can you take the writer or his company seriously if they can't spell 'quality?'" LInhirtLinately, the answer is that mis- spellings, improper punctuation, and grammatical errors all reflect poorly on a business writer and his or her employer. You are how you write. Accurate writing can spell the differ- ence between "promotion" and "dis- missal," or can contribute to whether your company succeeds or fails. Bad writing is a big problem for big business. Based on a 2004 survey of 12 U.S. corporations, the National Com- mission on Writing concluded that one third of employees at blue-chip compa- nies write poorly and that companies arc spending as much as $3.1 billion annu- ally on remedial training. Writing is a struggle for many admin- istrative professionals. But don't give up without a fight, because your career and your company's well-being may depend on it. Read on for some quick and easy ways to boost your writing prowess. Simple Improvements Administrative professionals can take several small steps to make big improve- ments in their writing. 1. Simplify sentences. E;ich sentence should carry one thought and one thought alone. "It makes it a lot easier to read if you have simple sentences instead of complex ones when you're trying to cover a lot of ground. Run-on sentences are my pet peeve/' says Teresa S. Gonzalez., an administrative assistant at Beers &: Gutler PLLC, a Washington, D.C.-based accounting firm. Another advantage of short sentences: You're less likely to make grammatical errors if you keep things simple. 2. Consistency counts. Use the same tense throughout correspondence instead of skipping back and forth from past tense to present, says B.J. Parrish, execu- tive assistant to the general auditor at American Red Cross Audit Services in 12 officePRO MARCH 2005
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Washington, D.C. Make sure that nouns and verbs agree. Stick to one type of style. For example, always write out "percent" or always use the percentage sign (%) rather than switching back and forth hetween the two in the same docu- ment. You'll be making your reader's job easier if you are consistent. 3. Get help. For example, Smith & Nephew Inc.'s Orthopaedic Division in Memphis has administrative profession- als codify how to carry out routine office tasks, including writing. "We call it CASE—copy and steal everything," says Barbara Chambers CPS/CAP, a senior administrative assistant at the company's regulatory/clinical affairs department.
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