March 2015

Word Smarts
(Ouch! Did I use that word the wrong way again?)

 Choose the best definition of the following word:

 Nonplus (verb) — nonplussed (adjective)

The fiancé was nonplussed by his sweetheart’s dismissal of his marriage proposal.

A.   To render senseless or useless

B.    To perplex or confuse

C.    To cause one to feel less than, inferior

D.   To be calm and expressionless

 (Find the correct answer at the bottom of this newsletter!)

Grammar To Go
—takeout tips for better writing

Capitalize Is and Are in Titles and Headings

When you decide to capitalize certain words beyond just the first word in a title or heading, here’s a tip you can rely on.

The first letter of ALL verbs is ALWAYS in caps, no matter how short the word is. That includes Is and Are.

And, here’s a bonus tip: The same rule goes for all pronouns, such as him and her and it and you.

This isn’t the whole rulebook of capitalization, but applying this takeout tip will greatly improve your presentation.

Whatever style you choose, stick with it throughout a given piece of writing. The key to good style is consistency!

 Example Headings

How to Punctuate Is a Question of Style
We Know It Is Wrong but Do It Anyway
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
You Are My One and Only

Writing Tips

Save the First for Last
—Writing Introductions

If you need to write something but can’t seem to get started, then don’t start at the beginning.

Consider a painting. Do you think the artist began painting in the top left of the canvas and moved methodically back and forth to the bottom right corner? Of course not.

I suggest you consider starting in the center. Write down the heart of your ideas—the important things—first.

Of course, written communication is linear. We read the beginning, move through the body of a piece and then on to the conclusion. It’s how we process information.

However, what we have to say and how we’re going to say it is often not clear until we’ve written our first draft. We write, revise, reconsider and write some more. We clarify our ideas, our thinking, as we write.  

So it makes sense to write your introduction after you’ve written the rest.

I’m not saying the introduction isn’t important. A good intro will grab your reader’s attention and hold it long enough that she’ll read on. It’ll hook your audience and set the stage for your main point. This applies whether you’re writing a letter announcing a rate increase or an article for a professional journal.

There’s no right way to write. If the muse appears, follow her! But, if you’re feeling stuck, uncomfortable or frustrated, try starting in the middle. Save the first for last.