There is an old expression that states “the squeaky wheel always gets the grease”. My overwhelming experience over the years proves that this is absolutely true! If you don’t express your concern about a problem or issue to someone in charge, things will never change. I have also found that by far the most powerful way to express one’s concerns about an issue is via a polite formal complaint letter. This is especially true if you are dealing with a large company or government organization.
Although complaint letters aren’t always fun, they usually need to be written
In most cases, if people don’t complain, the problem agency at fault (e.g., company or government) won’t even know that the problem that you and others may have experienced even exists. Legitimate complaints, by even a few people, can (and often do) result in better service for everyone. Not only that, writing complaints down can be personally beneficial for the writer too!
That’s right. Writing complaint letters can be an empowering and therapeutic experience! It allows one to take action instead of playing the role of a victim and nursing an ongoing resentment towards a company about poor service or treatment that you received. Once the complaint letter is written and in the mail, you can let it go knowing that you have done something tangible and constructive about the situation.
In fact, properly written and handled complaint letters almost always get action!
Once I started writing complaint letters, I began receiving gracious letters of apology and contrition from senior executives including bank vice-presidents and directors of marketing for giant corporations. Getting those felt one heck of a lot better than polishing an ongoing resentment and getting even angrier the next time something bad happened. Sometimes I even received discount coupons and free merchandise!
Over the years, many people have contacted me about writing complaint letters for them. I always request that they at least give me a draft in their own words so that I can get some idea of the essence of the situation. More often than not, what they send me is an angry and rambling diatribe that just confuses the situation or issue.
If you want your complaint letter to have impact and to elicit action, there is a way to structure and write them that I have found will work without fail. I documented this in an article a few years ago titled “10 Secrets for Writing Killer Complaint Letters”. Here’s the link: http://www.writinghelp-central.com/article-complaint-letter.html
Minutes of meetings are important documents because they record in writing what was discussed in the meeting, and what decisions were actually made there. In organizations that maintain good practices, a review of the minutes of the primary management meetings over time would reveal an excellent record of the history of that organization.
During my 25+ years working in various organizations, there were many occasions on which I was tasked with either writing the minutes of meetings myself, or editing/approving minutes written by others. As a result, below are a few suggestions I have for you, should you ever be asked to write the minutes for any type of meeting.
5 Tips For Writing Good Meeting Minutes
1. Work From An Agenda A meeting agenda that lists the main items to be discussed should be circulated to all potential attendees a few days (ideally) prior to the meeting so that they can make sure it is on their schedule and that they will have the necessary documents that will be needed to discuss the items listed. That very same agenda should be used by the meeting chairperson to conduct an orderly meeting. Keep this list short and focused! A good meeting should last no more than an hour. Anything more than that, and it becomes unproductive and a time-waster. Your colleagues will thank you for running a tight, short gathering.
2. Be Concise Meeting minutes should NOT be a long-winded and verbatim “he said” – “she said” account of the meeting. They should briefly record only the essence of the major points discussed and/or major decisions reached, from a bottom line perspective. The key items to record are decisions made/deferred, the specific reasons for that decision, and most importantly who is responsible for any follow-up action.
3. Use Clear and Precise Language Because minutes of meetings are an “official” record of corporate decisions made, they are often referenced many months later in order to recall what “exactly” was decided at a previous meeting. This makes clarity and precision of language very important when later trying to determine exactly what decision(s) was made and what specifically led to the decision.
4. Make the Right Person Responsible In most organizations, a corporate “meeting secretary” is made responsible for organizing meeting logistics, drafting of minutes, and distribution of meeting-related documents such as agendas, minutes, and support documents. This is an important task; the person chosen for this should be well-organized with above-average writing skills.
5. Make Someone Else Accountable Once the meeting secretary has drafted the minutes they should be carefully reviewed and revised if necessary, by the person who chaired the meeting. That individual, who will normally occupy a position of some responsibility in the organization, will then sign them off as “approved” before they are distributed by the secretary.
Well written minutes are critical to the effective functioning of organizations over time. Good minutes can be used as checklists for what has been achieved to-date in an organization, as well as action lists of what tasks have to be completed going forward. Making sure that your organization produces well written and meaningful meeting minutes will be an important element of its success.
One of the most serious problems that many of us face on an almost daily basis is the one that arises from having to deal with the dreaded writer’s block when faced with a deadline. Writer’s block is definitely not a pleasant experience. Especially, when the due date for one’s business report or project paper is getting closer by the day! I know what that knot in the gut feels like, every time the boss asks you “how’s that project going?” on those occasions when you don’t manage to avoid him/her as you try to slink unnoticed down the hallway.
Writer’s block is fear-based
For various reasons, many of us have an incredible fear of committing ourselves in writing whenever we are faced with a blank page or computer screen. In reality, this is actually an irrational feeling that keeps us from putting pen to paper. We secretly wonder just what exactly is going to come out of this keyboard/pen, and when it does, will we be revealing that we are some kind of incompetent idiot who doesn’t know what they’re talking about?
The good news is that writer’s block can definitely be beaten!
That’s right! I have learned through trial and error over the years that writer’s block can be easily overcome if we do the proper preparation and follow a few simple guidelines.
Below are my personal hard-earned practical tips for overcoming writer’s block:
Don’t Write It Too Soon Before trying to write, it is important to prepare mentally for a few hours or days (depending on the size of the task and your deadline) by mulling the writing project over in the back of your mind. Once you’ve done the necessary reading, research, and thinking, your sub-conscious mind needs time to process all of that. Let it sit and have your subconscious mind work on it (Just as athletes don’t like to peak too soon, writers shouldn’t write too soon either!).
Preparation Is Important Prior to writing, read over whatever background material you have so that it is fresh in your mind. I always do a final review of all material gathered, carefully marking the important points with a yellow hi-liter. With this material fresh in your mind, you will find that the writing process flows better once you get started, due to less need to refer to your background.
Develop A Simple Outline Before sitting down to actually start writing, compile a simple point-form list of all of the key points you want to cover, and then organize them in the order in which you are going to cover them. (I know, I know… your Grade 6 teacher told you the same thing… but it actually does work!).
Keep Research Documents Handy Once you finally sit down to write, make sure that all of your key background materials are spread out close at hand. This will allow you to quickly refer to them without interrupting the writing flow once you get on a roll. I keep as many of the source documents as possible wide open, and within direct eyesight, for quick and easy access and reference whenever I’m writing something.
Just Start Writing Yes, that’s exactly what you should do. Once you have prepared mentally and done your homework as discussed in the previous steps, you will be ready to write — even if your writer’s block is saying no. Just start writing any old thing that comes to mind. Go with the natural flow. In no time at all, you will get into a rhythm, and the words will just keep on flowing.
Don’t Worry About Editing the First Draft Once the words start to flow don’t be concerned about making it perfect the first time around. Remember, it’s your first draft. You will be able to revise it later. The critical thing at the outset is to get those thoughts written down as your mind dictates them to you.
Use an Example or Template Get an actual sample of the type of document that you need to write. It could be something that you wrote previously, or it could be something from an old working file, or a clipping from a magazine article, or a sales brochure you picked up; as long as it is the same type of document that you are writing. Whatever it is, just post it up in your line-of-sight while you are working. You’ll be amazed at how it helps the words and ideas flow. This example will serve as a sort of visual model for you.
In my experience this last point is the ultimate secret for overcoming writer’s block.
I continue to use this last technique on a daily basis. In fact, I rarely start writing anything anymore from a blank page or screen. I always manage to find an example from somewhere and work from that. Once you’ve used this method for a while you will be able to easily get templates from writing projects that you have done previously.
I recommend you write a goodbye letter whenever you are leaving one organization to take a position elsewhere. It is a professional gesture to make; one that I believe is worth the extra few minutes that it takes, even though you are leaving and might not expect ever to be back. It is the kind of action that will make you stand out in people’s minds as a sincere person and colleague.
Just the fact that thousands of people from all over the world search out this particular type of sample letter each week, tells me that a lot of folks are looking for ways to leave a positive and lasting impression when they move on in the business world.
Here are a few points to keep in mind when composing a work-related goodbye or farewell letter.
Keep It Short Two or three short paragraphs will do. Never exceed one page for such a letter.
Make It Sincere Use simple, sincere and upbeat language. Keep it real — don’t forget that the people who receive it know you; so make sure whatever you say rings genuine and true.
Take the High Road Even if you were unhappy in your position and are pleased to be leaving, make sure you don’t say anything that would burn your bridges. You never know when you might end up working with some of the recipients again in the future. Nothing good will come out of a negative farewell letter.
Don’t Include Details I suggest that you do not provide the details about where you will be moving in your letter. Simply offer to give your contact coordinates if anyone wants to stay in touch. Your letter should be focused on the place and people you are leaving. So, don’t give too much information about your destination, except to those who request it from you directly. (That way, you’ll also find out who your friends really are!)
In my opinion, an appropriately sincere goodbye or farewell letter is definitely the most professional way to leave an organization, and is well worth the time and trouble. (As usual, I always recommend a real letter, but if that’s not possible a well-worded e-mail can also work).
Writing a business report can be one of the most difficult writing tasks we face, whether it’s for work business or school business. In fact, people often cringe at the thought of writing a business report. Granted, these are somewhat more complicated than business letters, but if approached in the right way, writing a business report can be a straightforward and reasonably painless process. So, to help people with their report writing I have put together a few tips that I have picked up over the years.
There are a number of different generic types of business reports including: general business report, business plan, business proposal, marketing plan, strategic plan, business analysis, project report, project analysis, project proposal, project review, financial plan, financial analysis, and others. Although the technical content and terminology will vary from report to report, depending on the subject and industry context, the actual “report writing process” will be essentially the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s a short 10-pager, or a major 100-plus pager, that process will involve the same fundamental steps.
The following seven points are what I consider to be the essential steps for writing any type of business report; whether it’s for your organization or for a school project. Follow these steps carefully and you won’t go wrong.
Confirm Exactly What the Client Wants
This is a very important initial step. Whether the client is a customer, a teacher, a professor, or someone else, be sure that everyone is talking about the same thing in terms of final outcome and expectations. When determining this, always think specifically in terms of the final deliverable (usually the final report). What issues must it address? What direction/guidance is it expected to give? What exactly will it contain? What bottom line are they looking for?
Determine What Type of Report Is Required
This is another very important initial matter to clarify. There are a number of different types of business reports. Although there is usually overlap among the different types, there are also important differences. For example, do they want: a business plan, a business proposal, a strategic plan, a corporate information management plan, a strategic business plan, a marketing plan, a financial plan, or what? Know exactly what type of final report is expected from the outset.
Conduct the Initial Research
Once you know exactly what the client (or you) wants, and the specific type of report they are looking for, you are ready to conduct your initial pre-report research. This stage may be as simple as collecting and reading a few background documents supplied by the client, or it could involve developing questionnaires and conducting detailed interviews with the appropriate people. It will vary with each situation. The Internet of course, can really simplify and shorten the research process, but don’t forget to double and triple check your sources.
Write the Table of Contents First
In my experience, drafting the Table of Contents (TOC), before you start writing the actual report is the single most important key to developing a successful business report. This document can normally be done before, or in parallel with, the first phase of project information gathering. This should be more than just a rough draft TOC. It should be a carefully thought out breakdown of exactly what you imagine the TOC will look like in the final report. Although this takes a certain amount of time and brain power up-front, it really streamlines the rest of the process. What I do is to actually visualize the final report in my mind’s eye and write the contents down. This really works! This TOC then becomes a step-by-step template for the rest of the process.
Sidebar: ========== If you are writing the report for an external client, it’s a good idea to present the draft Table of Contents to them at this point in the process and get their approval. This will force them to think it through and confirm what they really want early on. Once they have agreed to a TOC you will have their buy-in for the rest of the process, therefore significantly reducing chances of any major changes or reversals at the final report phase. ==========
Do Additional Research
After thinking through the TOC in detail, you will know if any additional research is required. If yes, do this extra information gathering before you sit down and start to actually write the report. That way, once you begin the writing process you will have all of the information needed at hand and you will not have to interrupt the writing process to conduct any further research.
Write the Report by Filling In the Blanks
That’s right, by filling in the blanks. Once the TOC skeleton framework is in-place as per the previous step, writing the actual report becomes almost like filling in the blanks. Just start at the beginning and work your way sequentially through the headings and sub-headings, one at a time, until you get to the end. Really. At that point, with all of the preparation done, it should be a relatively straightforward process.
If you follow the above steps in the “report writing process” you will be amazed at how quickly your reports will come together. Give it a try – it really works.
“Be specific to attract your ideal client” – Wendy
So you’re finally ready to take the plunge and work as a
freelance writer full time? Congratulations! You are in for an interesting and,
hopefully, rewarding journey.
One thing that can save you a lot of stress, money and
time is getting the right type of clients. And this is something that can
happen before you even talk to a
potential client. It starts with how you present your work: your portfolio.
But if you’ve never made a portfolio before, you
probably have questions. How much do your clients need to know about you? How
open and general can your topics be? This post will answer all that and more,
and help you create the perfect portfolio to catch the ideal client.
Crafting the perfect writing portfolio can mean a huge
difference in the clients you get and the money you make. It manages not only
their expectations of the type and quality of your writing, but can also inform
them how you work, and what you expect from them.
1. Determine Your Why
Writing is all about self-motivation. So think about what
keeps you motivated. Having a clear idea of where you want to take your
business from the start will help give your career a clear direction. When you
have determined what drives you in your business, think about your ideal
client. They should align with your goals. Who are you trying to help, and how
will you help them?
2. Building A Flexible Portfolio
Specializing allows you to make more money and make a name
for yourself by writing in a particular field. Choose no more than two
specialties to highlight at one time.
Though specializing can help you make a name for
yourself, it’s essential to keep your portfolio flexible. Ideally, you’ll
always be working to find new areas of income. Some of your subspecialties may
connect to your specialty, but they don’t have to.
Maybe you’ve got several years experience in finance
writing, but you’ve always had an interest in travel. You could add some pieces
which reflect your interest in finance, combined with a love of travel, with
topics about how to invest so you can spend more time traveling. Or, you might
choose to create multiple portfolios, for different client personas. Keep these
small, simple, and not too disconnected from each other.
3. Getting The Details Right
Professionalism in writing means clear, concise writing,
no typos, grammar, or spelling issues to worry about. Familiarize yourself with common mistakes. Brush up on your grammar and
spelling and always read aloud to fix clunky sentences, repetitive words, and
You want the writing in your portfolio to reflect your
best. You’ll also want to spend some time thinking about templates. You need
something simple and streamlined, with an easy-to-read font and layout. You’d
be surprised how much design comes at the cost of quick and straightforward
readability. Keep your font at least 12-point, in something simple and
4. Find The Right Portfolio Service
The great thing about our online, interconnected world:
it’s easy for clients to find you. There are plenty of portfolio services available to choose from,
and what you choose depends on your specific needs. Here are some general
considerations to help you make a decision:
You want to find a place that allows you to highlight
your writing, without leaving it dull on the page. It should be easy to
navigate and reflect your writing voice. If you’re a technical writer or
copywriter, you might want something more streamlined or modern. If you’re a
ghost blogger who writes relationship and mommy blogs, you might want something
more approachable or playful.
While you’re looking for a hosting service, don’t forget
to consider the practical elements. How much space will you need? How many
unique emails? Will you add multimedia components? Is it easy to navigate
social media, add newsletter sign-ups, and other forms of promotion? What are
you willing to spend? Remember, this is a client’s first look at you, as a
writer, and a business.
5. Get Personal – But Don’t Overdo It
Your portfolio’s About Me section is where you can get personal. Use a tone consistent with the pieces you select. Talk about your hobbies and interests, but be mindful of your audience. This is where you can afford to get a little more informal. But don’t get too personal.
Talk about how long you’ve been writing, but not your
age. Talk about your childhood interest in an obscure topic you love writing
about, but less about your childhood hopes and fears. Keep the tone positive
and upbeat. But stay away from anything cutesy or quirky. Using text talk might
be okay in your private messages, but the About Me on your website or portfolio
is still all about what you can offer potential clients. So keep it polite,
professional, and focused on your work.
6. Get Some Feedback
As a writer, you’re mainly working in a vacuum. You
procure your own clients, produce your own pages, and you hit that submit
button, and read all those rejection letters by yourself. But that doesn’t mean
you don’t need anyone, or even that you have to go it alone.
Get some feedback. Find a mentor, or writing partner
friend who can help you choose the right pieces to fit your writing goals, and
the type of projects you’re looking to tackle. Get a trusted editor to check
your portfolio or website before it goes live, for readability. If you have a
friend who knows coding or graphic design, talk to them about how to create
something simple and unique, and how to maintain it. There’s plenty of help out
there when you need it.
7. Keep Updating
The most important part of being a professional writer
is to remember to write! Running a business for yourself can be tough, and it’s
easy to lose sight of your goals. Updating doesn’t have to mean a big overhaul
every few months. Instead, take regular stock of what you’re working on, what
you’re excited about, and where your goals are. Make it a habit to check in
with yourself. Don’t be afraid to take pieces out of your portfolio as they’re
no longer relevant to your personal goals.
8. Include Your Pricing And Terms
This is a little more controversial than other elements
you might want to include. Many writers don’t like to publish their prices
before they talk to a lead, as it can differ per project what they charge.
That said, being completely transparent about your
pricing and terms can save you a lot of negotiation time and, if you’re like
me, having to discuss that icky “money” thing. It can also ward off anyone
looking for a “good deal”, and prevent any misunderstandings around payment and
So if possible, state your pricing and terms on your
portfolio. You can offer different packages to cater to the different types of
projects. And the last piece of advice on this: ask for (partial) upfront
payment. It will take the sting out of worrying about getting paid after your
work is done.
An excellent writing portfolio can elevate your career.
It gets you the right exposure, to the right people. This is the difference
between taking the jobs you actually want and scrambling to keep yourself
afloat with one bad client after another. Build a portfolio that filters your
leads, and start your business right with an ideal set of clients.
A very important lesson I have learned over the years is that one should never write any type of proposal document from scratch. It’s way too hard and just not necessary anymore. This is something I learned the hard way many years ago, after slaving away to write my first few proposals from a blank page. Since then, I have written thousands of business documents, including hundreds of proposals for many different situations without ever having to work from scratch.
In fact, the most effective way to develop a proposal is to work from a model that has already been created for another proposal submission situation. It also doesn’t need to be for the exact same situation; as long as it is along similar lines. I know from my various writing-related websites that there are five main proposal types that people seek help with online: grant proposals, business proposals, technical proposals, project proposals and sales proposals. Nevertheless, it turns out that it doesn’t matter very much (if at all) what type of proposal you are writing; the approach and basic structure will be very similar.
The important thing is to be able to use the approach and structure of the sample template that you work with as your guide for the new proposal that you need to draft. Using an already-proven template that matches your situation as closely as possible can have numerous benefits as follows:
• You will save significant time by not having to start from scratch. • The template will act as a “checklist” to ensure you cover everything. • A template will tend to stimulate your thinking and give you new ideas. • You will know you are using an approach already used successfully by others.
In the end, using a previously developed proposal should give you a result that is even better than the model from which you are working.
Take a few minutes to do a web search for “free ____ proposal template,” where the blank is your specific project need. Bonus: switch your default search engine to use the Ecosia search engine and you’ll help the Earth by planting trees with every search you make.
At some point in life, many of us are asked by someone we know to write a general character reference letter on their behalf. If you haven’t been asked yet, it is likely you will be at some point. In fact, keyword searches and direct requests for information and samples on “how to write reference letters” are among the most common online writing queries.
LETTERS OF REFERENCE DEFINED
As opposed to a “letter of recommendation,” which is normally very specific in subject and purpose, a “letter of reference” or “reference letter” is typically more general in nature and IS NOT addressed to a specific requester. Usually, “letters of reference” are addressed as; “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.”
The most common letters of reference are:
Employment-related — general reference letter
College-related — general reference letter
Character reference letter — general-purpose personal reference
General reference letter — various subjects
In addition to standard letter-writing dos and don’ts, there are a number of basic guidelines that apply specifically to most situations related to the writing of letters of reference. These are usually more “situational” than “how-to” in nature. These reference letter guidelines are important to both note and apply, since writing letters of reference is always a somewhat tricky and delicate matter. That’s because they almost always affect the reputation and future of the writer or that of another person.
REFERENCE LETTERS — TIPS & STRATEGIES
The following tips and strategies apply primarily to the writing of letters of reference in their various forms (i.e. reference letters, character reference letters, employment reference letters, college reference letters, and general reference letters).
Write It Only If You Want To If you are asked by someone to write a reference letter about them, you don’t have to say yes automatically. If it’s someone you respect for their work, and you have mostly positive things to say, by all means write the letter. There is no point saying yes and then writing a letter that says nothing good about the person, or worse still, concocting a misleading positive assessment of someone. So, whatever you do, don’t get sucked into writing a reference inappropriately out of feelings of guilt or obligation.
If You Must Refuse, Do It Right Up Front On the other hand, if someone asks you to write a reference letter for them, and you know you’ll be hard-pressed to keep it positive, say no right away. There is no point in hesitating and leading the person on to believe that the answer might eventually be yes. A gentle but firm no will usually get the message across to the person. Explain that you don’t think that you are the best (or most qualified) person to do it.
Suggest Someone Else If you feel you should refuse, for whatever reason, it may be helpful for you to suggest someone else who you think might have a more positive and/or accurate assessment of the person. That other person may be in a better position to do the assessment. Usually there are a number of possible candidates, and you may not actually be the best one. In fact, I have seen a number of cases over the years in which people requesting reference letters have not requested the letter from the obvious or logical choice. This usually happens when the requestor doesn’t like the person who is the obvious choice, and/or they are worried about what that person will have to say about them.
Write It As You See It Writing a less than honest letter of reference does no one a favor in the end. It is likely to backfire on all involved: you the recommender, the person being recommended, and the new employer. Also, most employers and head-hunting agencies check references these days. How would you like to be called up and have to mislead people due to questionable things you may have written in a less that forthright reference letter?
Be Honest and Fair Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to writing reference letters. At the same time, try to be fair and balanced in your approach. If, in your estimation a person has five strengths and one glaring weakness, but that weakness really bothers you, make sure you don’t over-emphasize the weak point in the letter based on your personal bias. Just mention it in passing as a weakness and then move on.
Balanced Is Best An overall balanced approach is the best one for a letter of reference. Even if your letter generally raves about how excellent the person is, some balance on the other side of the ledger will make it more credible. After all, nobody’s perfect. There must be some area where the person being recommended needs to improve. A bit of constructive criticism never hurts and it will make your letter appear to be more objective in nature.
Bottom Line: The most important point to take away from the above tips and strategies is that it is your choice as to whether, and how, you will write a letter of reference.
It’s an important type of letter that will have a definite impact on the future of the person about whom it is being written, so don’t agree to write one unless you are willing to be totally objective and give it your utmost attention and effort.
This current post is the second in my latest series of articles about commonly confused and/or misused words. The previous article covered words/terms beginning with the letters “a” to “c”; this one covers the letters “d” through “f”.
decision (make or take) “make a decision” is the traditional phrase that was (and still is) used. “take a decision” has become common in popular usage and is generally accepted. They both mean “to decide about something”. Examples: I believe that he has made a wise career decision. The review committee is expected to take a decision later today. But… Use “decision making” NOT “decision taking”
defective, deficient “defective” refers to something lacking in quality. “deficient” refers to something lacking in quantity. Examples: The transformer was found to be defective and had to be replaced. The study showed that 70% of subjects tested had deficient iron levels.
dependant, dependent In British English, dependent means reliant on. A dependant is a person that relies upon another person. In American English, you can use dependent for both.
different, various “different” implies uniqueness and/or separateness. “various” implies number and diversity. Examples: Each of the three proposals offered a different approach to the project. After the meeting, various attendees signed the petition.
disinterested, uninterested “disinterested” means unbiased or impartial. “uninterested” means not interested, or unconcerned, or indifferent. Examples: The panel of judges was asked to provide a disinterested opinion on the matter. My boss seems to be uninterested in any of the plans proposed so far.
each “each” should be treated as singular and used with a singular verb. Examples: Each of them is now free to choose sides on his/her own. Each municipality administers its own road maintenance program.
economic, economical “economic” relates to the economy or economic system. “economical” refers to a person who is thrifty and tends to avoid waste. Examples: Things have improved since the economic crisis eight years ago. He is economical about all things, including his choice of a small hybrid car.
effective, efficient “effective” refers to producing a good or desired result. “effective” can also be used to indicate that something is “in effect” or “in force”. “efficient” refers to the skillful use of time, effort, energy, and/or money to produce desired results. Examples: Despite her inexperience, the new president proved to be highly effective in her job. That new law will become effective on January 1st of next year. Pressure to reduce carbon emissions has forced manufacturers to produce more efficient engines.
emigrate, immigrate, migrate “emigrate” means to leave one country or region and move to another. “immigrate” means to enter and settle in a new country or region. “migrate” means to move from one place to another. (people or animals) Examples: A large number of Irish people emigrated to Canada during the potato famine. Last year, this country accepted more than 150,000 immigrants from African countries. Hunters tend to migrate from one forest area to another in search of migrating herds.
fewer, lesser, less “fewer” always refers to a number of things that can be counted. “lesser” or “less” usually refer to quantity, amount or size. “Less” can also refer to number, when it can be thought of as an amount. Examples: They sold fewer cars this year than last. He chose that option because it was the lesser of two evils. Your workload is expected to be less from now on. When searched, she had less than $200 in her purse.
figuratively, literally, virtually “figuratively” means “not really” or “not literally”; in an abstract sense. “literally” means “really” or “actually”; in actual fact. “virtually” means “almost entirely” or “for all practical purposes”. Examples: Figuratively speaking, he was over the moon about it. It was determined that they were literally minutes away from death when found. As far as we could tell, it was virtually a dead heat as they crossed the line.
financial, fiscal “financial” refers to money matters or transactions in general. “fiscal” refers to public finances derived from tax revenues. Examples: The company’s financial performance was better this year than last. The central bank has recommended the adoption of a policy of fiscal restraint.
flaunt, flout “flaunt” means to “display boastfully”. “flout” means to “treat with contempt and disregard”. Examples: She made a point to flaunt her new engagement ring to everyone she encountered. He has a tendency to flout the highway traffic laws.
flounder, founder “flounder” means to struggle awkwardly, without making progress. “founder” as a noun refers to a person who founded an institution. “founder” as a verb; refers to: a ship filling with water, or a building collapse, or a horse falling down lame. Examples: After six months, the business was already seriously floundering. His father was the founder of that college. After the collision, the ship quickly foundered. As soon as they depressed the plunger the building foundered. Right after crossing the finish line the horse foundered and then buckled to the ground.
forego, forgo “forego” means to “go before” or “precede”. “forgo” is an accepted variant spelling of “forego”. Examples: By the last week of the campaign her election was a foregone conclusion. Members were not willing to forego/forgo their dining room privileges that evening.
former, latter “former” refers to the first mentioned in a series. “latter” refers to the last mentioned in a series. Examples: Of the two on the list, I tend to favor the former. (For more than two, use “first-mentioned”). Of the two mentioned, I prefer the latter. (For more than two use “last-named”).
Recently, I was helping out both my daughter and a friend with the job application process. During this period, I was reminded of how the focus among most job applicants is almost entirely on the resume or CV. Most often, the cover letter gets lost in the rush to apply, treated as an annoying last minute must-have afterthought. I think this is a fundamental mistake that a lot of job applicants make.
After all, the cover letter is normally placed on top of the resume or CV; it’s the first thing the recipient sees. So, if yours is poorly written, shoddily formatted, or obviously deficient in any other way, you have already sabotaged yourself before the reader even glances at your resume. By submitting a weak cover letter, you’ve already told them something about yourself that is less than complimentary.
Remember: resume cover letters are used for one purpose only — to introduce yourself to a prospective employer. The most common mistake I see in cover letters that are sent to me for editing is that many tend to repeat verbatim almost exactly what the attached resume or CV already contains.
A resume cover letter should be a concise one-page summary that introduces you, explains why you are writing, summarizes your key skills, abilities and experience (as they relate to the specific job at hand), and asks the recipient to get back to you. Its main purpose is to capture the attention of the recipient enough to get that person to look at the attached resume with interest. Let’s look at some important tips:
1. Address It To A Specific Person Even when sending an unsolicited resume to a company you should take the time to find out the name of the appropriate person and write the letter to that person. At least it will reach their office. Resumes sent to “Dear Human Resources Manager” or “To Whom It May Concern” are almost always a waste of time. Name someone specifically and it will at least make it into an in-basket. Sometimes you will be given a specific name or title to which you should address your letter. Use it — and make sure you spell it correctly! If you’re not sure about gender, avoid guessing, and leave off the Mr. or Ms.
2. Keep It Short and Focused Remember, your resume already says it all. Keep the letter short and focused and don’t repeat verbatim what is already in the attached resume or CV. NEVER exceed one page in a cover letter.
3. Be Enthusiastic Express your interest in the job and the new company with enthusiasm. Show that you really want the job, and that you would really like to work for that particular company.
4. Focus On Needs Of the Employer Throughout your cover letter make it clear that you are interested in the needs of the employer. You are there to help them. You are part of the solution. Try to make this the message of your entire letter.
5. Show That You’ve Done Your Homework Demonstrate a good knowledge of the company and industry for which you are applying. A one-liner, or a phrase or two in the appropriate place in your letter that shows you are interested in that company, and you understand the problems it faces, will give you instant credibility (i.e. do some simple Internet research).
6. Use the Appropriate Buzzwords Every organization has its own ways of doing things and its own lingo. Look through key documents such as annual reports, corporate websites, etc. Try to spot key words, terms, and phrases that are often repeated. Every company has them. Use as many of these hot buttons as you can in your cover letter – where appropriate, of course. For example, if the “Message From the CEO” in the annual report mentions the phrase “action plan for the future” three times, make sure you work that term into your cover letter in an appropriate place. Don’t overdo it, of course. Just demonstrate that you’ve done your homework. 7. Summarize Your Skills and Abilities If possible, without making the letter too long, summarize your overall skills and abilities as strengths as they relate to the company you’re applying to. Try to relate them directly to the requirements listed in the job ad or poster. This can make them stand out in a way that they wouldn’t, if they were buried in the resume or CV.
8. Get It Right Make sure that your cover letter is free of spelling and grammatical errors. Allowing those types of mistakes to creep into your one page cover letter is a major credibility destroyer. Sloppy and unprofessional are NOT the first impressions you want to give to the reader before they even look at your resume.
The challenge of course, is to try to address all of these points in a four or five paragraph letter. It can be done!