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A FORUM FOR VIEWS ON WRITING AND COMMUNICATION

FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, WRITE


AS YOU SPEAK
It’s a lament we hear often, particularly from readers tired of tackling
verbose and complicated text. But how do we do it? Hugh Vaughan-
Williams offers some suggestions.

I saw a man killed on the Harbour Bridge this morning.”


Harbour Bridge this morning It immediately gets to the point,
it’s easy to understand and absorb
WHAT’S INSIDE
Bet that made you sit up.
and it grabs attention. No – Using quotes effectively Page 3
Now imagine if I had, instead, complicated construction, no
– Capturing the language Page 6
begun like this: “While I was obscure words and no long,
driving across Sydney Harbour meandering sentences. And there’s – Easy errors Page 9
Bridge this morning, a man nothing to learn: it is simply the – Ask Amanda Page 10
attracted my attention. Seemingly way you tell other people things
oblivious of danger, he was every day of your life.
wandering all over the road. Too
This old reporter’s trick helps
late he saw a car coming straight washroom taps off with the result
illustrate one of the finest pieces
at him. The driver took evasive that considerable amounts of
of advice ever given on writing:
action but could not avoid water are being wasted. This
Write as you speak. That doesn’t
running over him. The injuries inconsiderate behaviour impacts
mean you should pepper
proved to be fatal.” our profitability. In future please
your writing with ums and
You might yawn and turn the hesitations. But it does mean ensure that taps are properly
page. Newspaper reporters used you should be concise, clear, turned off when you have finished
to be taught to structure a news uncomplicated, informal. using them.”
story by pretending they were Yet when the same manager sees
Write as you speak applies to
telling a friend about it. You an employee leave a tap running
every act of writing, as much to
would never tell a friend: “I saw he’ll say: “Please don’t leave taps
composing an office memo as it
a 32-year-old computer running. It’s a waste of money.”
does to writing an article in an
programmer walking on the (How about that for a clear
in-house journal. Hundreds of
Sydney Harbour Bridge this and memorable memo? Using
tortuous, self important missives
morning. He strayed into traffic 10 words instead of 57.)
hit corporate computer screens
and was knocked down by a car.”
every day. Without a trace of Write as you speak applies to
You would begin: “I saw a blind shame, managers will sit down every form of wordsmithing,
man killed on the Harbour Bridge and write a memo like this: obviously never more than in
this morning.” A news report “It has been brought to my speechwriting. Long, complicated
would begin in just the same way. attention that employees are sentences are death to any speech,
“A blind man was killed on the often omitting to turn the Continued page 2

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Continued page 1 message, rendering it accessible impress often end up sounding
yet we’ve all sat through them. only to those with the considerable dated and clichéd. At the end of
If an after-dinner speaker begins: intellect needed to decipher it. the day you can try sending your
“I intend to address you this jargon down the runway, but it
Still with me after that paragraph
evening on the pressing subject of will never fly. And that’s the
of pretentious gobbledegook? In
pedestrian safety for the visually bottom line.
other words people can’t resist
handicapped” you will shut him
trying to impress people when So in the interests of the dwelling
out and begin daydreaming. But
they write, and their message is place of the universal deity, make
if he stands up and says: “I saw a
lost as a result, just like mine was. sure at all times to set your
blind man killed on the Harbour
thoughts on paper as if you were
Bridge this morning” you will sit The English language is so rich
vocalising them to another party.
bolt upright. that we can convey information
I mean, for heaven’s sake, write
with extraordinary subtlety and
When most of us speak aloud as you speak.
precision. But if that richness is
we are concise, direct and clear. Hugh Vaughan-Williams is an
abused you will sound as
Why do so many people end up internationally recognised authority
pretentious as I did, bore people on magazine writing. As a managing
communicating in a tangled,
and confuse or lose your audience. editor for Reader’s Digest in the US,
complicated and obscure way? he was responsible for the content of
What happens when we write? So here is the First Principle of 28 international editions. He has
worked as an editor and writer on
Writing: Use words to magazines and newspapers in Britain’s
The answer is that the motivation
communicate, never to impress. Fleet Street, in South Africa, Australia
for circuitous and obfuscating and the US where he now runs his own
written communication is the Beware too the temptation to editorial consulting and training agency.
temptation that often arises for impress, not with long words and h
people who would otherwise complicated sentences, but with
normally write clearly and jargon. Business-speak can be
distinctly, to attempt to a deadly trap. It often begins as
demonstrate to others their a catchy new expression that
commanding knowledge of the attracts attention. Fine. But
more obscure recesses of the catchy new expressions have an
English language, resulting in the extremely short shelf life. People
distraction of attention from their who use business jargon to

EVEN BORING SUBJECTS industries and sped the sprawl depots where trucks are sold,
CAN SPARKLE of suburbs. Boston, Washington, scrubbed, serviced and scrapped.
Business writers sometimes Atlanta and Los Angeles choke
blame poor writing on the dry At many I-40 exits, illuminated
on its traffic.
topics they tackle. But good logos of McDonald’s, Kentucky
writers can make any subject But it has also matured to become Fried Chicken, Waffle House,
sparkle. Here’s how Peter an economic powerhouse. A Phillips 66, Citgo, Total, Conoco,
Kilborn, writing in The New York 1,000-mile trip along I-40 from Comfort Inn, Days Inn, Super 8
Times, approached the arid Memphis to Little Rock, Oklahoma and Best Western have sprung
subject of an interstate highway. City and Amarillo to little San Jon, up like lollipops on 100-foot-tall
New Mexico, suggests that in sticks. Heirs to the old Burma
The Interstate System began with rural areas where a fifth of the Shave signs, billboards hustle the
President Dwight D Eisenhower’s population still works and lives, Hog Trough Liquor store near
Federal Aid Highway Act of the Interstate has acquired a life Clarksville, Arkansas, and
1956. By the end of the 1960s, of its own, connected to the big Huckleberrry’s Pig Out Palace
it had laced up the nation, coast cities but apart from them, too. barbecue in Henryetta, Oklahoma.
to coast, border to border. Just off the exits, often tucked out
Along these roads are the nation’s
For many Americans, it has of sight, are its more muscular
newest jobs, homes and
shattered its promoters’ promises businesses – factories, meat-
businesses and its lowest
of safety, efficiency and speed. packing plants, warehouses and
unemployment. In the 1980s, they
It has devoured inner-city distribution centres.
gave birth to food-souvenir-gas-
neighbourhoods, sucked out their travel plazas as big as
supermarkets, cookie-cutter
motels, casinos, shopping malls,
second cities of old cities at exit
ramps and immense 100-acre

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USING QUOTES EFFECTIVELY
HERE’S ANOTHER, USED TO of which had been made by the
START AN INTERNAL MEMO:
A trap that business lowest bidder.” Many of my
British author William Thackeray colleagues are nervous too...
writers often fall into is once observed that the two most
using a quote without engaging things a writer must do
providing context for it. are to make new things familiar – TO ILLUSTRATE THE
BENEFITS OF HARD WORK:
Carefully selected quotes and familiar things new. Now
Machiavelli said 50 percent
are a great tool to use I want to try to make some new
of success in life comes from
things familiar to you. I hope
in communications. personal effort and 50 percent
when I’ve fi nished, I will have
convinced you of their merit... can be attributed to chance.
I think it’s more like 90-10 in
The intelligent reflections of favour of effort.
successful people, especially if HERE’S ONE USED IN
A SALES SEMINAR: Especially effective are quotes
they’re concerned with issues from famous people that make
Legendary ad-man David Ogilvy
under discussion, are always readers or listeners laugh. This
said that it’s useless to be a
insightful and useful. They add one from Churchill could be used
creative original thinker in
an intellectual dimension to any to comment on wordiness, or as
business unless you can also sell
copy, article or speech that prods you near the end of a talk and
what you create. People cannot
a reader or listener’s mind, want to tell your audience you
be expected to recognise a good
helping to keep them thinking and won’t keep them much longer:
idea unless it’s presented to them
attentive. Moreover, they can add
by a good salesman. During a long and boring speech
to their enjoyment by giving them
a perception of “buy-in.” It’s a being delivered by an opponent in
form of intellectual flattery: the House of Commons, Winston
THIS WAS USED IN A
you’re sharing with them insights HIGH-LEVEL SPEECH TO Churchill slumped forward in his
ILLUSTRATE CHANGE: seat and closed his eyes. His
into the minds of great people,
In the 1960s Samuel Beckett said opponent stopped and asked,
knowing they’ll appreciate
the task of the artist was to fi nd a “Must you fall asleep when I’m
them. And they invariably do.
form that accommodates the making my speech.”
But the secret is to use them
mess. He was voicing for art the
properly.Here are some examples Churchill stirred and replied,
concerns that scientists had faced
we’ve used: “No, Sir, it’s purely voluntary.”
earlier in the century when
quantum physics exploded h
INTRODUCTION TO Newtonian concepts and forced
A SEMINAR: them to reinvent the forms of the
As you know, the primary reason universe. Today it’s the role of
for this seminar is to talk over business leaders to fi nd a form of
issues relevant to the company leadership that accommodates
and, ultimately, have a drink and the paradoxical nature of change.
a chat. We all work so hard these It’s something we in business are
days that we’ve little time for going to have to learn to live with.
decent informal communication.
And as Socrates said 2,500 years
ago, the unexamined life is not AND ANOTHER:
worth living. I’m reminded of the story of the
astronaut who was asked by a
It’s a brief quote from Socrates,
reporter whether he was nervous
but relevant.
when his rocket was about to
take off. He said, “Of course I
was nervous, I was sitting on
10,000 manufactured parts, each

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WRITING WEBSITES: WHY SIZE MATTERS
Want people to read – not scan – your website? Consider using small
type. That’s one of the findings of a new eye-tracking study conducted
by the Poynter Institute, a well-known American journalism school.

Smaller type encourages reading, So attention all writers: When for that story had an inordinate
while larger type promotes writing headlines and blurbs number of eye fixations compared
scanning. This is especially the for websites, make sure the with surrounding content, even
case with headlines on first couple of words are real though it was below the first
homepages. Larger headlines attention-grabbers. visible screen of the page.
encourage scanning more than Researchers observed a similarly
Here’s what else the study found:
smaller ones. high number of eye fixations on
Homepage layout. While testing a headline about clothing maker
More fascinating discoveries were
participants’ eye movements FCUK, which was placed far
unearthed in the study. When
across several news homepage down on a page with a long list
people look at blurbs under
designs, researchers noticed a of headlines and blurbs.
headlines on news homepages,
common pattern: The eyes most
they often only look at the left
one-third of it. Most look at the
often fixate first in the upper left “Photographs,
of the page, then hover in that contrary to what you
first couple of words, and only
area before going left to right.
read on if they are engaged by might expect, aren’t
those words. Dominant headlines most often typically the entry
draw the eye first upon entering point to a homepage.”
Similarly with headlines on a
the page – especially when they
homepage, most often people
are in the upper left. Photographs, This may spell good news for
only look at the left sides of the
contrary to what you might websites with homepages that
headlines. They typically scan
expect, aren’t typically the entry extend beyond the initial screen
down a list of headlines. If the
point to a homepage. Text rules view. Eyetrack III found that
first words engage them, they
on the PC screen – in order people’s eyes typically scan lower
seem likely to read on. On
viewed and overall time spent portions of the page seeking
average, a headline captures
looking at it. With news something to grab their attention.
a site visitor’s attention for
homepages, readers’ instincts are The eyes may fixate on an
less than a second.
to first look at the flag/logo and interesting headline or a stand-out
top headlines in the upper left. word, but not on other content.
Eyetrack III tested several Again, this points to the necessity
homepage designs, watching of sharp headline writing.
where on the page people look. Continued page 5
As expected, lower parts of
the page – especially areas you
have to scroll to view – receive
modest viewing.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t
get people to look at content low
on a scrolling page. On a couple
of test homepages, researchers
found “hot spots” for some
stories. Perhaps because the
testing took place in San
Francisco, research subjects were
drawn to one story about the site
“Craig’s List” (a local online
community popular since its
inception in 1995). The headline

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Continued page 4 Text columns. Most news website fixations. And the bigger the
Navigation at the top of article pages present stories in a image, the more time people
a homepage performs best – single column of text, but some look at it.
that is, it is seen by the highest present articles in two or three
One test page had a postage-
percentage of test subjects and side-by-side columns. Is this as
stamp-sized shot that was viewed
looked at longest. None of the readable as the traditional (for the
by 10 percent of participants.
25 sites surveyed used right-side Web) one-column article format?
An average-sized photo (about
navigation. It’s rare, but you can
No. Eyetrack III showed that the 230 pixels wide and deep) drew
find right navigation in the news
standard one-column format gazes from about 70 percent.
website world.
performs better in terms of Clean, clear faces in images
In testing, the study observed number of eye fixations – people attract more eye fixations
better usage (more eye fixations view more. However, habit may on homepages.
and longer viewing duration) with have affected this outcome. Since
An interesting research titbit:
right-column navigation than left. most people are accustomed to
people often click on photos –
While this might have been the one-column Web articles, the
even when it gets them nowhere.
novelty factor at play – people surprise of seeing three-column
aren’t used to seeing right-side type might affect eye behaviour. Use text for facts; multimedia
navigation – it may indicate graphics for unfamiliar concepts.
What about photos on article
there’s no reason not to put Overall, people are more likely to
pages? Test subjects typically look
navigation on the right side of recall facts, names, and places
at text elements before their eyes
the page and use the left column correctly when they are presented
land on an accompanying photo,
for editorial content or ads. with that information in a text
just like on homepages.
format. However new, unfamiliar
“Though most Finally, there’s the use of or conceptual information is more
participants did not summary descriptions leading accurately recalled when
into articles. These are popular participants receive it in a
look at images first, with participants. When readers multimedia graphic format.
images receive a encounter a story with a boldface
significant number of And one final tip: Researchers
introductory paragraph,
observed that most participants
eye fixations. And the 95 percent of them view all or
attend to only two forms of media
bigger the image, the part of it.
at a time. For example, in one
more time people look But when people view an testing situation users were
at it.” introductory paragraph for presented with audio, still images
between 5 and 10 seconds – as and written captions. Testers
Shorter paragraphs are better is often the case – their average observed that they directed their
than longer ones. Stories with reading behaviour of the rest of attention to the audio and images,
short paragraphs receive twice the article is about the same as ignoring the captions.
as many overall eye fixations as when they view articles without Eyetrack III research was conducted by
those with longer paragraphs. a summary paragraph. The The Poynter Institute, the Estlow Center
The longer paragraph format summary paragraph made no for Journalism & New Media, and
Eyetools. For the study, researchers
seems to discourage viewing. difference in terms of how much observed 46 people for one hour as their
of the story was consumed. eyes followed mock news Websites and
real multimedia content. Learn more
Larger online images hold the about Eyetrack III by visiting
www.poynterextra.org/eyetrack2004/
eye longer than smaller images. main.htm.
News homepages typically use
templates, many of which employ
h
a predetermined size for a main
image. What testers learned about
photo size in Eyetrack III may
be helpful to those wondering just
how big a spot to leave for images.
Though most participants did
not look at images first, images
receive a significant number of eye

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CAPTURING THE LANGUAGE
Pam Peters is the author of the highly regarded Cambridge Australian
English Style Guide. She’s also Associate Professor of Linguistics at Sydney’s
Macquarie University, Director of its Dictionary Research Centre and sits on
the Macquarie Dictionary editorial board. Here she offers us an intriguing
insight into the life of a lexicographer and provides useful advice for
business writers.

How do you go about putting Is it staggeringly hard work?


a dictionary together? It’s relentless in that you’re always
You need a macro structure, a big adding or considering words. If
picture. You might be making a your blueprint says you should
dictionary for the whole language, add a word when there are five
but even then you have to decide citations for it, then you wait and
how much of the vocabulary you see, recording, seeing if more
really aim to capture. Every last evidence comes up. These days we
slang word? Every technical term? can readily short-circuit the
How many foreign words? How process by searching the internet.
many abbreviations? As long as it’s the kind of word
that gets into print or electronic
In the case of Macquarie
form we can use the web to test
Dictionary we were capturing
quickly if it’s out there. But you
English used in Australia. That
don’t want one person’s pet word,
involved elements that were
even if they put heaps of examples
distinctive as well as those shared
on the web. So you’re still doing
with other varieties of English.
the scholarly thing and checking
You have a mixed target – words
your sources.
that are familiar and established,
and the ones that are novel, fresh
creations. Then against the You can’t just leap
blueprint you keep adding words, in with the first
at least to the unabridged instance of a
dictionary. When you get to the neighbour saying “I’ve
smaller dictionaries you have heard a lovely word.”
reductive processes to go through,
deciding what can be left out. You don’t run with things that
might be one-off words which
nobody else is going to use in a
Do you nut out everything in thousand years. You can’t just
the blueprint stage? leap in with the first instance of
As much as you can. Nobody is a neighbour saying “I’ve heard a
omniscient or prescient enough lovely word.” You have to do the
to do it all. The publisher usually follow-up work. But the internet
has a say in what the macro is worth its weight in gold
structure will be. That’s not to in assisting lexicographers
say it takes away hard decisions these days.
about particular words; ultimately
it’s dictated by the size of the
dictionary you’re planning How did you get involved in
to publish. the Macquarie Dictionary?
When I arrived in the Linguistics
Department, before the internet
existed, we assembled
Continued page 7

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Continued from page 6 Was there an incident that got The other thing the media is
an electronic corpus of you interested in language? doing is accustoming us more to
computerised texts as source It was just something you could spoken usage. Where your
material on words. I was involved soak up and enjoy – saying things newspaper has a certain rather
in pioneering that within the in other ways. I do remember formal code of writing, radio and
department. I was especially being taught French songs at an the digital media will accustom us
interested in usage variation, and early age. Those slightly nostalgic more to informal and spoken
the dictionary editors felt it would songs somehow appealed; they’ve forms of English.
be good to have somebody like stuck in my head.
that on the team. I formally joined
There was something romantic
it in 1991, ten years after the fi rst
about French. I was lucky enough Have you seen evidence of that?
edition of the dictionary.
to have very good teachers who There are signs that
brought it to life. They didn’t just colloquialisms are becoming more
teach the mechanics of the widespread, and seen more and
Is it a passion for you? language; they had imagination. more often in print. Australians
Oh yes! (Laughs) I enjoy words The language was a window into have always been thought to
hugely, discovering their frontiers. things you didn’t get through prefer the colloquial style, yet
I’ve worked my way through a ordinary reading of your own standard British and American
number of living and dead language. That’s what added to English are beginning to show the
languages as I like to tell people. the excitement for me. same trend – to look more like the
I started off aged about 10 with Australian. But the Oz has always
French and Latin. That’s a good been less constrained by the
age to start learning languages; feeling that writing should be
Who and what are the major
they say you can absorb and different from print.
influencers of language?
speak them readily before your
The media create or mediate new For example, in the choice
speech organs become too fixed.
language like nothing else. At between “we like the idea of their
I got a scholarship to a public
some level they’re mediating their working here” or “them working
school in England where I started
own terms, whether it’s terms like here” (where you have the
immediately on French and Latin,
“flashback” or adding new possessive versus the accusative),
then took up German as well
meanings to old words such as the more formal standard British\
when I transferred to an
“having a take” on something. American way is to say “we like
Australian school.
They add to our repertoire – the idea of their working here”.
At university, I began to read words that are associated with Australians go for “them” –
languages such as Old Norse and the things of the moment, but opting for the more
Old English. Then as a research perpetuated as elements of the straightforward construction
student I added in Danish and news. Without the media to with the accusative.
Swedish. Looking at an array of disseminate them, they would
languages like that, it’s never take off, let alone become
fascinating to see how similar yet everybody’s parlance. Do you think the Australian way
how different they are. French
People often imagine that because makes language more accessible?
and Italian are similar by their
modern English is thoroughly It might make people read more
Latin origin. When I got into the
documented, it therefore won’t easily. When little children begin
Linguistics Department at
change. I’m not sure that’s true. to read, they learn faster if the
Macquarie University, my interest
When you think of the words on the page are like those
became not different languages
audiovisual media, especially they hear around them. The text
but different varieties of the same
radio and digital networks, makes sense faster. Adults also
language. That’s what’s taken me
they’re circulating new things at read more readily if the style’s not
forward in the last 15 to 20 years
an incredible rate. I imagine this too lofty. Unless you are used to
– looking at Australian versus
actually accelerates the pace of reading lofty styles as a
British and American English.
language change. professional lawyer or academic,
That’s what is deeply embedded
you’ll probably prefer to get the
in the Cambridge Guide to
meaning immediately, rather than
English Usage. But you could say
have to work through the style.
it goes back to learning languages
You can’t appreciate a style for
at an early age.
its own sake for very long.
Continued page 8

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Continued from page 7 A generation later people don’t
Lyn Truss’s Eats, Shoots and
Leaves, a book about
punctuation, has become an
actually know that the word
was American. Business
The

writer
international bestseller. What’s
driving this emerging interest in How much of a purist are you
the workings of language? EDITORIAL CONTACT
about missing apostrophes and
She has a winning combination of INFORMATION
so on?
humour and old-fashioned advice. Businesswriters & Design
It depends whether it’s supposed Derryn Heilbuth
If it weren’t so amusing I don’t to be edited text or not. If I saw it Rear 99 Grandview Street
think it would be in the bestseller at the greengrocer’s, I’d smile. But Pymble NSW 2073
list. What she’s saying about if it happened in a letter from the Sydney, Australia
language is not particularly new, Ambassador, I’d be more T: (612) 9488 3200
but I do think the humour is concerned about the impression F: (612) 9488 3288
worth an enormous amount – her it gave. If it turned up in a book, E: editors@businesswriters.com.au
ability to make a dry subject like I think it’s unfortunate for the W: www.businesswriters.com.au
punctuation funny. publisher. But it doesn’t irk me
TRAINING INFORMATION
personally if I see it.
The publishers of this journal
provide training courses in
Chips have become fries, shed-ule writing, presentation and
is being pronounced sked-ule. Any word you find hard to spell? communications. For information
At what stage does one capitulate Inadvertently. It’s the “ent” about upcoming courses, go to
to Americanisms or other and the “ant” in the second last www.businesswriters.com.au
influences? Does it really matter? syllable that catches me. and click “Training”.
We take into the dictionary
what’s widely used: that’s the
point. Dictionaries don’t usually
flag words in terms of the variety If you had the opportunity to
of English they come from. They offer advice to business people or
wouldn’t try to mark the word as bureaucrats, what would it be?
American; they just register Write like you talk. Talk to your
whether or not people are using it. audience as intelligent listeners.
Don’t use jargon – explain things
Often their use takes you by to them. You must have something
surprise. To give an example, I got to say, which you want to
caught up in a lawsuit a couple of communicate. There’s no point in
years ago about the word “ho” sitting on the fence like a
meaning “whore” where one politician. My theory is that
young person called another a business people too often feel they
“lying ho.” Researching its origin, have to get up and talk to fill in the
I found it in some British and space between the board and the
American slang dictionaries, one shareholders. Even if the situation
of whose citations came from the isn’t clear and won’t be for another
Jerry Springer show. That show couple of weeks, they feel they
has been screening on Australian have to make a public statement.
television several days a week, But it consists of fuzzy and facile
and helping the word to catch comments and clichés because
on here. they have nothing significant to
Going home in the bus the other communicate. Listeners know it.
day, I heard a couple of young That’s why many people liked
people using the word quite Don Watson’s book on the decay
unselfconsciously, and the word of public language.
has also been spotted on h
Australian websites. It has come
a long way from its origins in the
Deep South. Many other less
strident Americanisms embed
themselves in Australian speech
and lose their American flavour.

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EASY ERRORS
Compared with or compared to, different from or different than?
The more pedantic grammarians get upset when they’re used incorrectly.
In most cases there’s only one right answer.

AFFECT AND EFFECT He compared the after-match Of all our rugby trophies, the one
To affect is to influence or change. cakes with chocolate pudding to that is on my desk is the biggest.
To effect is to bring about. An decide which one tasted better. (Distinguishing one trophy from
effect is a result or an influence. several others.)
When the Wallabies lose it affects DIFFERENT FROM AND Which is best used to introduce a
his mood. It effects an DIFFERENT THAN clause containing incidental or
undesirable change in his These expressions are both widely nonessential information. These
personality; he shouts and tells used, but most publications, which clauses require commas.
you it has no effect on his team’s writers and editors prefer
His match analysis, which
prospects next time. different from.
includes players’ names, will
This rugby ball is different from be available tomorrow.
ASSURE, ENSURE AND INSURE (not than) that one.
However, many writers now use
Assure means “to convince,” Unfortunately, different from either which or that to introduce
“to guarantee.” Insure means “to often leads to convoluted an essential clause. Indeed, which
guard against loss.” Ensure means sentences. In such cases, use is to be preferred to that:
“to make certain.” Assure and different than as a substitute for
ensure are often used 1. when there are two or more
“different from that which.”
interchangeably, but they actually parallel essential clauses in the
have different meanings. Assure same sentence:
takes a direct object – usually a PRINCIPAL AND PRINCIPLE
George is taking lessons which
person or group of people. You As a noun, principal means
will earn him a regular spot in the
assure someone that something “head” or “chief”; as an adjective,
team and which will qualify him
has been done. Ensure does “highest” or “best”. Principle
for a coaching job.
not imply that you are giving means “basic truth, law, or
assurance to someone else. assumption”. Principle is NEVER 2. when that has already been
You ensure that something has an adjective. used in the sentence:
been done. The principal rugby coach gave That is a match which you must
I assure you of my team’s the team talk. He acts according not miss.
good prospects. to the highest principles. 3. when the essential clause is
Please insure this package introduced by an expression such
of rugby clothes. PROVED AND PROVEN as this... which, that... which,
Proved is generally preferred these... which, or those... which.
Ensure that you lock
as a verb. Proven is better used We need to reinforce those tactics
the changeroom.
as an adjective. which were introduced in earlier
The winger has proved his training runs.
COMPARE TO AND
COMPARE WITH value. He has a proven try-
Compare to means “assert scoring record. UTILISE AND USE
a likeness.” Always use use. Utilise
THAT AND WHICH is unnecessary.
He compared the mud on the
playing field to chocolate pudding; That introduces an essential Source: Writers Free Reference
both are brown and gooey. clause – one that specifically www.writers-free-reference.com
Compare with means “analyse
defi nes or limits a description
and is necessary for full
h
for similarities and differences.” comprehension of a sentence.
These that clauses do not require
a comma.

www.businesswriters.com.au The Business Writer | Compilation no. 2 | 9


ASK AMANDA
Trainer supreme, style guide author and rising grammarian, Amanda
Mannion will answer those niggling queries that stump you time and again.

“The difference between the right


word and the almost right word is
Given this rule, we should be
writing sentences like Whom Q. When do you use in to instead
the difference between lightning are you writing to? but it’s rare of into?
and the lightning bug,” observed
Samuel Clemens, better known
nowadays for sentences to begin
with whom. It reads just a little A. We use the two-word version
to us as Mark Twain, a good too pompously for most of us, when each word plays an individual
150 years ago. English offers a even in formal documents. role in a sentence. When the parts of
plethora of word choices, some this twosome stand alone, in is an
Here’s a useful rule of thumb to adverb that relates to the verb that
obvious and others so subtle you
remember when debating over went before and to is part of an
need to think at least twice, if
beginning a question with who infinitive verb that follows. Here’s an
not consult your grammar tome,
or whom. If your answer to the example: Team members streamed
style guide or resident brains
question is him or her, whom is in to support their colleague.
trust to select the right one.
correct. If it’s he or she, who will In sentences like these to implies
Here are a few of the questions most certainly do. in order to.
we’ve received recently from
participants in our Better business As one word, into is a preposition.
writing course. Perhaps these
have had you scratching your
Q. Frequently it answers the question
Is it all right to write alright? where? Like this: We filed into the

head too... A. Not unless you intend


auditorium to hear him speak.

writing very informally. Whether Has a word, phrase or grammatical


dilemma got the better of you? If you
you’re using all right as an adverb send your question to Ask Amanda at
Q. Can I get away with never or adjective you should be writing mandy@businesswriters.com.au we’d
welcome the opportunity to share our
writing whom again? both words out in full. There are ideas on it with you.
a couple of reasons why we come
A. Almost. Labelled as stilted unstuck with this one. Although
and outdated, whom is often and almost look like alright and
ousted in favour of the more the al component sounds the same
universally applicable who. Both in all three words. We may also
terms are pronouns with who the feel the need to distinguish alright
subject form and whom the object meaning “adequate” or
form. Who is the subject in a “satisfactory” from all right
sentence like Who knows the meaning “correct”. But really, no
answer? On the other hand I don’t differentiation is needed – all right
know to whom I can go for help is the way to go in both cases.
with this query goes the whom-
route as whom is the object of the
preposition to.

www.businesswriters.com.au The Business Writer | Compilation no. 2 | 10