May 2015

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

Which of the following uses of the verb to hone is incorrect?

  • I want to hone my business skills.

  • Jane honed in on the best solution.

  • Peter honed his knife before carving the turkey.

Although we often hear hone in used when we mean to move toward, the appropriate verb is to home in.

Jane homed in on a solution.

Grammar To Go
Takeout tips for better writing

Whether to Use If

You wouldn’t  make the mistake of using whether for if in the following sentences:

If he already shopped, then I won’t have to.
I’ll turn back if I’ve gone too far.

However, mistakes are common the other way around.

Bob wants to know if you already shopped for dinner. Incorrect

Bob wants to know whether you already shopped for dinner. Correct.
When it’s a question of one option or another, use whether not if.

  • Please tell me whether I’ve gone too far.

  • I couldn’t tell whether she was angry or sad.

  • It’s a question of whether he’s guilty.

Writing Tips

You Never Get It Right the First Time
—the importance of rewriting

Have you ever read a piece of writing—whether it’s a newsletter, brochure or magazine article—and wished you could write like that? Good writing makes us think, touches our emotions, convinces us to buy, or somehow moves us. 
It’s easy to believe good writers have something we don’t. They can sit down and knock out a riveting blog over morning coffee, right? Wrong. It doesn’t happen that way. But, strong writers do know something new writers may not know: the first draft always stinks. 


The secret to good writing is accepting from the get-go that rewriting is essential to the process. By rewriting, I don’t mean just reworking a sentence, rewording a phrase or correcting grammar. You need to be willing to make BIG changes.

You may need to move ideas around and change the organization completely. You will likely have to get rid of some text, as well as add new ideas.
But how do you know what to rewrite? Read your work as though you were someone else, someone who didn’t know what you know or think like you think. If you aren’t sure whether something makes sense, it probably needs a rewrite.
As you rewrite, be sure all your thoughts are clearly focused on your topic. If you don’t stay on topic, don’t expect your readers to. Changes in content, organization, focus, connection from one idea to the next—that’s what makes the difference between a first and final draft.
Writing takes time. After you draft your work, set it aside to get some perspective. After a day, or at least a few hours, read it, rewrite it, and repeat. Once you have all that in place, you can edit at the sentence level to make your writing flow nicely and sound good to your readers.
Thinking that writing should be easier just makes it harder. The false belief that if we were good writers we’d get it right the first time gets in our way. Once you accept that writing takes time and know that a second or third draft is par for the course, writing really does get easier.
There are some people who are better writers than others. It’s a fact we have to live with. But they aren’t good writers because they get it right the first time. Good writers know that rewriting is integral to the writing process.