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5 Struggles Faced by International Students

Five Struggles Faced by International Students and How to Overcome Them

Five Struggles Faced by International Students and How to Overcome ThemBeing an international student is an incredible experience. Many students travel from all over the world to attend universities in the United States and in Canada. While many of these students do very well in their new environments, most still face struggles at some point or another. Moving across the globe all by yourself—usually at the young age of 18 or 19—is a pretty big deal. If you’re an international student in North America and you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, don’t panic—you are not alone. Here is a list of five common struggles for international students, along with the best methods for overcoming them.

Struggle #1: Language Barriers

The Problem: Even if you’ve been speaking English for your entire life, learning to understand native English speakers can be a major challenge. Depending on where you are studying, the dialect could be almost impossible for you to understand right away—native English speakers can also have trouble understanding the dialects of English speakers living in regions different than their own. Even if dialect isn’t a factor, speed and slang certainly are added obstacles. Native English speakers may speak so quickly that you can’t separate the words, and they may use lots of terms and phrases that mean absolutely nothing to someone who is not well-versed in English colloquialisms. Being unable to communicate fully in English upon arrival at school can make it very difficult to make friends and to fully succeed in your classes.

The Solution: Make friends! This may seem difficult, but really, a university is the perfect venue for meeting people with whom you share common interests. Just like you’re interested in North American culture, customs, and language, many native students will be interested in where you come from and what your life was like in your home country. If you take time to communicate with your new friends exactly what your language limitations are, many of them will work to accommodate your needs.

The more you speak English with your new friends, the easier it will become to understand their speech and to generate more of your own. For example, I had a friend at my university who was an international student from Pakistan. His English skills were already very good upon arriving in Canada, but he had a hard time with slang and idioms. Instead of just avoiding the use of these phrases, he created a method for learning them. Whenever someone used a phrase with which he was unfamiliar, he asked what it meant. After the person explained—usually with some difficulty, as it is very difficult to explain why phrases like “I’m feeling under the weather” or “take it with a grain of salt” mean what they do—my friend would write down the phrase, along with its meaning, in a memo pad on his cellphone. He would then casually try these new phrases in his own speech with his friends to make sure he was using them correctly.

Struggle #2: Academic Issues

The Problem: Like most international students, you may be very serious about succeeding academically. After all, you did travel across the globe to receive your education. Still, sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try—some assignments or tasks may be too challenging. This can be especially true for projects that involve strong English language skills or abstract writing abilities, like essays. It can be very frustrating to fully understand a concept but be unable to express it satisfactorily in English.

The Solution: Talk to your teachers! Most professors want to help their students succeed. Though it may make you nervous at first, utilize resources like office hours and study groups. Stop in to talk to your instructor if you are struggling with an assignment. It is perfectly acceptable at North American universities to actively seek help when you are having a hard time. If your professors are unable to help you themselves, they can refer you to resources that they think will be helpful, like your university’s academic writing center.

Struggle #3: Homesickness

The Problem: Moving away to school is a major transition, even when you aren’t moving a two-day plane ride away. It’s easy to quickly fall into homesickness, especially if you find yourself feeling isolated. You may start missing your family, your friends, the customs of your home country, and even the food you are used to eating.

The Solution: Once again, the solution to this struggle is to make friends! While it’s great to call home sometimes to chat with your family and friends, you shouldn’t rely on this contact to keep yourself from being homesick. Instead, you should spend lots of time with new friends. These can be both international students like yourself and North American students. You may find that it makes you feel better to tell your new friends about your life at home, to sometimes speak your native tongue with friends from your country, to teach foreign words to native English speakers, and even to expose your new friends to the foods you are accustomed to eating.

Struggle #4: Staying Active

The Problem: Your lifestyle may change drastically when you move to school. If you’re anything like other students, you’ll probably find yourself spending lots of time sitting around. Whether you’re hanging out with friends, sitting in class, studying for exams, or writing a paper, you may have a hard time getting the same amount of exercise you’re used to. On top of that, the new foods you’re eating may be drastically different from (and greasier than) your regular diet. It doesn’t take very long for what North Americans cutely call “the Freshman 15” to settle onto your hips. And let me tell you—there is nothing cute about it.

The Solution: Take advantage of your school’s resources. Don’t be afraid to try going to the gym—after all, you have a free membership! Most university recreational centers also offer free fitness classes and intramural sports. Even if physical exercise has never been your cup of tea, you should make an attempt to do something other than hang out in your dorm room. Consider joining an academic or social club, and try to become familiar with the city you’re staying in by using public transportation and going for walks. Staying busy and active will also help you avoid homesickness.

Struggle #5: Other Problems

The Problem: You’ve made friends. You’ve joined clubs. You’ve attended classes, written papers, and studied for exams. But still, something is missing. You’re not happy. Maybe there’s something personal going on in your life, or maybe you’re just having a hard time with the transition to post-secondary education. Whatever the reason, you’re not enjoying your life, and that’s a problem.

The Solution: While it may be difficult for some international students to understand, in North America, it is completely acceptable to ask for help when you are having problems. Most universities offer counseling services for their students. Usually, a certain number of sessions are covered by your student health plan, which means you can talk to a counselor for free. Utilize these resources while you can—these types of services are not usually free of cost in contexts other than school, and they can be very helpful when you’re trying to deal with complicated issues. Don’t struggle alone—learn how to reach out.


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How to Succeed in an Online Course

How to Succeed in an Online Course

How to Succeed in an Online CourseYou’re in your last semester of your undergraduate degree. Only five classes to finish before you cross that glorious finish line and leave the books behind. You have a couple of electives left to take, so you decide to take two online courses. This will be great! Without having to go to class, you’ll have so much extra time to do the reading and complete your assignments. Plus, you know, Netflix. (What? Who said that?)

Cut to three months from now. You just realized your final papers for both online courses are due on the same day, and you haven’t started either of them. You also haven’t done any of the reading for the past five weeks. Oops. That particular variety of stress, the one tied inexplicably to writing papers, wraps its cold hands around your neck. Who knew that an online course could be so much work?

Let’s do something you won’t be able to do in real life: roll the clock back to your enrollment in those online courses. No, I’m not going to suggest you don’t take them. Instead, I’m going to teach you how to succeed in an online course—information that’s particularly helpful before you begin one of these classes. Spoiler alert: it actually involves you doing your work. And, sadly, it has very little to do with Netflix. (Don’t worry: Full House isn’t going anywhere.)

1. Scheduling is your friend.

All students struggle to stay on top of their workloads. (Any students who say they don’t are clearly robots, and this blog is for humans. You’re not welcome here, Stepford Student.) Finding the time to attend classes, do the assigned reading, complete assignments, and study for exams is difficult enough for a regular course. Online courses make it even harder to stay on top of things, because no one is holding you accountable for staying on schedule. There’s no professor to guilt you during class for not having done the assigned reading, no classmate to ask you questions you most certainly don’t know the answers to. And there certainly isn’t anyone to remind you that your midterm paper is due next week. It’s all on you to stay on track. So how can you do that?

When it comes to succeeding in an online course, you need to schedule three things:Time Spent in an Online Course

  1. “Lecture” Time
  2. Reading Time
  3. Assignment/Exam Preparation Time

Most online classes don’t have required “lecture” times per se. Still, you need to have a set time dedicated to learning the lecture material. Let’s say you have a break in your regular classes between 2 and 4 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Well, now you have a break between 2 and 3 p.m., because 3 to 4 p.m. is dedicated to your online course. Schedule your reading time in a similar manner, and for goodness’ sake, stick to your schedule.

If scheduling is your friend, your syllabus should be your bestie. Relying on your syllabus will help you succeed in your online course. After all, how can you possibly prepare for exams or complete assignments if you don’t keep track of your deadlines? For some people, this may mean writing deadlines in a planner. Others may rely more on technology; for example, adding your deadlines to your phone and creating pesky little reminders may be helpful if you’re prone to forgetfulness. Do what you need to do, as long as you’re making a plan and sticking to it.

2. Active learning helps you . . . well, you know, learn.

Learning the material from an online course can be tricky. For lots of students, simply reading the material is not a great method for absorbing the content. Not having a professor to engage you in the content can also make that content difficult to take in. So what can you do to actively work with—and thereby actually learn—the material from your online course?

The methods that work best for you will depend on how you learn best. But, generally speaking, repurposing the material is often a helpful way to learn it. This may involve making notes, creating (and subsequently answering) mock test questions, creating a PowerPoint presentation, or making a video. You could also get together with classmates to discuss or debate important points, to role-play major events or theories, or to eat ice cream. (Hey, it can’t be all work all the time, you know!)

I know what you’re thinking. Who has time to do any of those things? To answer that question, I’d like to redirect you to the previous piece of advice. Who has time? You do. Why? Because you scheduled time for this online course. I would also like to add that there is always time for ice cream. Always.

3. Practice online etiquette.

Even online courses occasionally require some kind of correspondence between teacher and student or between students. Whether you’re working in a discussion group or just have a question about an assignment, you will occasionally have to communicate with someone via the Internet. There is a right and a wrong way to do this. Let’s take, for example, this email to a professor of an online course:

What not to say to your professor in an email.

This email contains spelling errors, incorrect punctuation, inappropriate short forms, and an unprofessional signature line. Colin would surely never hand in an assignment in this condition, nor would he use such a casual tone if he were speaking to the professor in person. If you need to email your professor or otherwise communicate online for your online course, be sure to use proper spelling and grammar, as well as a professional tone. Think of school as your job, and write accordingly. Let’s try Colin’s email again, shall we?

An appropriate and professional email to a professor.

Another aspect of etiquette to keep in mind for your online course (and all your courses, for that matter) is to check your syllabus before emailing your instructor with a question. Instructors don’t much care to answer questions you already have the answers to—do not email in haste!


There you have it: you now know how to succeed in an online course. Now that you have the know-how, it’s time for the follow-through. Go forth, student, and prosper in your online courses. Even if you’re not currently in school, many online courses are available to help you improve your knowledge or skills. And now that you know the best way to tackle an online course, why not take a course in editing?

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6 Job Interview Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

How to Botch an Interview

How to Botch an InterviewInterviewing for a new job is a stressful process. How do you convince a total stranger that you’re a competent, qualified adult? Well, start by making sure that you are, in fact, a competent and qualified adult, and then study these six job interview mistakes so that you can avoid them during your own quest for employment. We all make mistakes, but if you prepare yourself properly, you’ll never have to make these mistakes. Ever.

Mistake #1: Going in blind

Interviewer: So, what do you know about our company?

You: Oh. Um, I read that you, um, make cardboard boxes? You’re a cardboard box manufacturer.

Interviewer: Well, that’s not quite right, actually. What we really do is provide hospital supplies to third world countries. We do send the supplies in cardboard boxes, though.

You: I’ll just let myself out.

What to learn from this mistake: When you’re on the hunt for a new job, sometimes all the positions you’ve applied for start to blend together in your mind. It’s easy enough to get mixed up about which jobs you’ve applied for, but if you’re asked to interview for a position, you need to do your research before the interview takes place. If interviewers can tell that you didn’t even take the time to Google the company, they’re going to assume you’re lazy, an assumption that won’t be entirely off base.

Mistake #2: Not asking any questions, or asking irrelevant questions

Interviewer: So, potential employee-to-be, do you have any questions for me? Anything more you’d like to know about the position or about the company?

You: No, I don’t think so.

Interviewer: Really? There’s nothing you’re curious about?

You: Um . . . no, I think I’m good.

Interviewer: So you don’t want to know what kind of software we use, what your work schedule would be like, how large your team would be, or what I meant when I referred to your moral and ethical obligation to treat my pet iguana, Harold, as though he were your own child? You’re not curious or concerned about any of those things?

You: Nope. I honestly just need a job. I really don’t care what it is, as long as I get paid to do it. Plus, I think reptiles are where it’s at, if you know what I mean.

What to learn from this mistake: Again, this job interview mistake comes down to you looking like you don’t care about the position you’re applying for. If you don’t display genuine interest in learning about the job, why would the interviewer think you actually want that particular position? Don’t let the interviewer think you’re just looking for any old job.

Mistake #3: Not dressing properly

Mistake #3 is not dressing appropriately.Interviewer: Hi, I’m Mr. Stefanopo—is that a Led Zeppelin T-shirt?

You: Yes, yes, it is.

Interviewer: Are you aware that this is a highly respected law firm?

You: Yes. Are you aware that Led Zeppelin is a highly respected rock band?

Interviewer: I’m afraid we’re going to have to go in a different direction for this position. That being said, would you be interested in going out for drinks later? I’d like to buy you and your T-shirt a beer.

What to learn from this mistake: The solution to this one is simple: dress appropriately! Maybe you’re not after a law office job—heck, maybe you’re not after an office job at all. Even if you’re looking to get hired as a retail employee or a factory worker, you need to look neat, clean, and well groomed for your interview. If you can’t take the time to shave your stubble, trim your beard, brush your hair, or wear clean clothes to an interview, how on earth can an employer trust you to dress or behave appropriately when it’s time to actually start working?

Mistake #4: Lying or exaggerating

Interviewer: What would you say your flaws are as an employee?

You: Well, I’m definitely a perfectionist, and sometimes that makes it hard for me to have realistic goals and expectations for myself.

Interviewer: I see. Can you give me an example of a time when your perfectionism worked against you?

You: Oh—um, yes, of course. OK. So last week I was, um, finishing up this big project. It’s complicated, so I won’t get into the details now, but basically, the fate of my department rested on this work. Anyway, I wanted the uh . . . the one part . . . I wanted it done a certain way. But I didn’t have time to do it that way. So, like, that was pretty frustrating. Because, you know, I’m a perfectionist and stuff.

Interviewer: But did the quality of the project actually suffer?

You: Oh, no. No, I never actually let my obsessiveness affect my work. I’m far too much of a perfectionist for that.

What to learn from this mistake: Two lessons here: First, you will always find yourself caught in a lie you tell in an interview. It might not be right away, but sooner or later, it will come back to bite you, and not in a fun way. The second lesson is that your interviewer has probably been around the proverbial block a few times. Interviewers will know if you’re giving them the answers you think they want rather than answering honestly, and they won’t like it. Respect yourself and your interviewer: don’t lie. If you’re qualified for the job, your real accomplishments will speak for themselves.

Mistake #5: Bad-mouthing former or current workplaces

Mistake #5 is bad-mouthing former or current workplaces.Interviewer: So, why are you looking to leave your current position at ThisPlaceSucks Inc.?

You: It’s terrible there. Everyone is so petty and inconsiderate, and no one ever acknowledges all the hard work I do. Do you know that I haven’t had a raise in four years? Everyone is always complaining about something—you know how they say that small minds talk about people? Well, yesterday I heard Kevin tell Mark that Jamie hadn’t gotten his reports done on time because Carol didn’t send him the data quickly enough. That is so like Carol. I told my boss about all this, and he just shrugged. He never takes me seriously. Typical.

Interviewer: And you don’t think it’s possible that you might become annoyed by the people who work here as well?

You: Nah, I don’t think so. Things seem much better here. I think the people here are probably all actually robots, which is great because no one will ever make mistakes or get on my nerves. No mouth breathers among robots either, so that’s a win.

What to learn from this mistake: This job interview mistake occurs when people are frustrated with their current positions and are desperately seeking change. Regardless of your feelings of frustration, you shouldn’t bad-mouth past or current coworkers, bosses, or workplaces. You’ll just come off sounding either petty or mean—not exactly qualities employers are searching for. You also never know who your interviewer might be—it’s very easy to burn bridges when you don’t know you’re talking smack about someone’s sister-in-law.

Mistake #6: Not following up

You: Ah, what a wonderful interview! I’m so excited about how well that went. I think I will reward myself by sitting at home, watching Netflix, and definitely not sending a thank-you note to the interviewer. I look forward to her completely forgetting me by five o’clock tonight. Ah, what a great day!

What to learn from this mistake: The final major job interview mistake you can make? Allowing your interviewer to lump you together with all those other applicants. Send a polite note or email, depending on the circumstances, and then you can congratulate yourself on a job well done. Unless, of course, you’ve made one of the other five mistakes above, in which case, you may want to go back to the job-search drawing board.

How to Write a Cover Letter

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So, You’re New to Canada, Eh?

So, You're New to Canada, Eh?I hear you’ve just moved to Canada. I bet you’re wondering just how to fit into Canadian culture. If you’ve done any research online, you’ve surely found that to act like a Canadian, you’ll need to say “eh” a lot, eat maple syrup-covered bacon, play hockey, be super nice to everyone, and pronounce it “a-boot” instead of “about.” Well, I hate to break it to you, but most of that stereotypically “Canadian” stuff is a bunch of over-exaggerated bologna. Sure, these things make for great punchlines in jokes about Canada, but they aren’t going to be much help if you actually find yourself in the land of the maple leaf. So, for you who are new to Canada, here are some dos and don’ts that will actually help you navigate the True North Strong and Free.

Do be nice

Canada has a reputation for being one of the nicest countries in the world. And while you shouldn’t expect every Canadian you encounter to shower you with love and affection, you definitely can expect us, as a group, to be very nice to you. For example, in Canada, it is generally considered pretty rude not to hold the door open for someone—even a stranger—who is entering a room or building behind you.

So, what can you, as a recent immigrant to Canada, do to fit in when out and about? The easiest thing you can do to be accepted by Canadians is just to be excessively polite. When you’re buying something at a store, being served at a restaurant, or receiving any other type of service, say “thank you.” And when somebody else thanks you, be sure to accept that thanks with a “you’re welcome.” Here is an example of a typical conversation between a cashier at a store and a customer in Canada:

Cashier: Hi, how are you today?

Customer: I’m great, thanks. How are you?

Cashier: I’m good, thank you. Did you find everything you were looking for today?

Customer: Oh yes, thank you.

Cashier: Good. Okay, your total comes to $15.00, please.

Customer: That will be on my Visa, please.

Cashier: Okay, you’re all set (sets up the Visa machine).

Customer: Thank you (completes the Visa transaction).

Cashier: Thank you. Here’s your receipt.

Customer: Great, thanks.

Cashier: No problem. You have a great day.

Customer: Thanks, you too.

Cashier: Thank you.

You may think that conversation is an exaggeration, but as someone who worked in retail for a long time, I can assure you that it isn’t. Most courteous Canadians treat service workers as if they are friends doing us extremely generous favors rather than as employees who are simply doing their jobs. The service workers, in turn, act as if the customers are their grandmothers, teachers, or other people who are generally treated with a high degree of respect. Of course, there are some rotten people who don’t treat service workers very well at all, but we prefer to believe that the mean people are actually all secretly American.

In addition to thanking people excessively, we Canadians tend to apologize profusely, usually when we have done nothing even remotely wrong. Some studies have shown that about 70 percent of Canadians will apologize when someone else bumps into them. That’s right––we say “sorry” for being in the way of people who aren’t paying attention to us. We also apologize when we don’t know what to order at a restaurant, when we can’t get our credit cards out of our wallets fast enough when there is a line behind us, when our small children cry in public, and so on. Even though it’s ridiculous, not apologizing for such things just seems rude.

Don’t say “eh”

The art of naturally integrating the word “eh” into a sentence is one that takes years of practice to master. Just like you can’t walk into a synagogue and toss around the few slang Hebrew words you know, you can’t just come into Canada and start saying “eh.” Most people who aren’t Canadian seem to think that we say “eh” in every other sentence. It takes a certain level of finesse to integrate it into your speech, and while some Canadians might be liberal with their “ehs,” most of us tack it onto sentences without even knowing it. Here are some proper and improper uses of the Canadian catchphrase that are good to know for those new to Canada:

Correct: “I know, eh?”

Translation: “I agree completely with what you’ve already said.”

Incorrect: “So, eh, I hear you’re an, eh, Canadian!”

Translation: “I’m doing a very poor imitation of a Canadian based on what I’ve seen on television.”

Correct: “It’s beautiful outside, eh?”

Translation: “Don’t you agree that the weather today is very pleasant?”

Incorrect: “Eh, don’t look at me like that.”

Translation: “What I really wanted to say was ‘hey,’ but I was trying to be clever.”

Unless you start saying “eh” without thinking about it, you would probably be better off avoiding its usage altogether. While we’ll probably just think it’s cute that you’re trying to be like us, we may be slightly annoyed if we think you’re mocking us (though it’s not likely that we’ll express that annoyance; instead, we’ll probably just offer you a beer).

Do accept hockey as a regular part of your life

You know that joke about all Canadians loving hockey? Well, it’s kind of true. I mean, no, we don’t all play, and I dare say, we don’t all even like hockey. But even those of us who don’t give a hoot about the sport itself do tend to take a certain amount of pride in our nation’s ability to dominate on the ice. Canada is a very large country, and hockey is one of the only universally Canadian things out there. From British Columbia all the way to Newfoundland, you’ll find small towns whose members regularly congregate at the local arena for hockey games. Many young girls and boys across the country grow up playing, and the amount of time, energy, and passion put into our hockey leagues can’t be ignored. We raise good hockey players, then proudly send them out into the world to represent us on our Olympic team and in the National Hockey League.

You don’t have to play hockey to live in Canada, but learning a thing or two about the game certainly won’t hamper your efforts to integrate into Canadian society. Tune in to Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday evenings once in a while to get an idea of what this hockey thing is all about.

Don’t think that all Canadians are the same

This may be an ironic bit of advice in an article on how to fit into Canadian society, but trust me, it’s still very valid advice for those new to Canada. Ever looked at a map of Canada before? If not, take a gander. If you haven’t noticed, Canada is huge. In terms of land area (no water), Canada is the fourth-largest country in the world. (If you count the water, we’re second only to Russia.)

This huge geographic span means that Canada has some pretty intensely different climates and intensely different people. For example, someone who grew up in Ontario would have a much easier time relating to a person from Michigan, USA than with a person from Newfoundland, Canada.

So, no, it isn’t always cold everywhere in Canada—in fact, not many people live in the places where it is always cold. And no, Canadians don’t all have the same “Canadian” accent. And no, we didn’t all share the same culture growing up. Saying so would be like saying that someone who grew up in Hollywood had the same upbringing as someone who grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. While stereotypical Canadian jokes are fine, people need to realize that they are just that—jokes. In reality, Canada is a uniquely diverse country.

Do ask questions, make friends, and feel welcome

I hope you’ve read the above points and thought to yourself, “Gee, I’m glad I moved to Canada.” If you are, I can’t blame you. It is a great place to be. We Canadians are fun people to get to know. We’re pretty accepting of others, too––if you respect us, we’ll respect you. So, come on in. Take off your shoes, get comfy on the couch (never the “sofa”), crack a pop (never a “soda”), and get to know us a bit better. I promise, you won’t regret it.


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It’s Just an Email…Right?

It’s Just an Email…Right?

Why grammar and tone are so important in professional emails

It’s Just an Email…Right?You are the hiring manager for a medium-sized business. You are conducting interviews to fill an entry-level executive position, for which there are two potential candidates. You walk out into the lobby to call in the first candidate for her interview. Sitting, side by side, are the two interviewees.

Both candidates are women in their early thirties. The one on the left is wearing a pencil skirt with a tucked-in blouse beneath a trim blazer. Her hair is curled and pinned partially back. A small red purse sits at her feet. She is sitting with her hands folded in her lap, patiently waiting for her interview.

The woman on the right is wearing loose jeans, a white (or, at least, formerly white) T-shirt, and a baggy sweater. The sweater has a sash at the waist, which the woman has left undone. It hangs on the floor on either side of the chair in which she is seated. Her hair is sitting on top of her head in a messy bun, stray strands falling in front of her face. Her backpack occupies the chair beside her. It is open, the contents spilling onto the seat of the chair. She sits cross-legged, cell phone in hand.

Both women are qualified for the position. They are equally educated and equally experienced, and both give impressive interviews. They answer all of your questions appropriately, and they both shake your hand with confidence at the end of their respective interviews.

So which candidate do you hire?

We both know the answer to this question. Obviously, the well-dressed and kempt candidate is offered the position. But why? Does her outward appearance really make that great of an impression?

The answer is yes—dressing well makes people think you know what you’re doing, just like writing well makes people think you know what you’re talking about. If you’re dressed well, nobody will be distracted from your actual actions. This, ladies and gentlemen, is where proper grammar comes in. Writing well is basically like wearing professional clothes to work in an office. People will take you more seriously, and they will have a much easier time paying attention to what you’re actually saying instead of what you look like.

Of course, you may be thinking to yourself, I already knew that. Yes, I’m sure you proofread all of your reports and official correspondence. I’m sure you obsess over your presentations and documents, making sure that they look clean, polished, and professional. But what about more casual modes of writing? What about, for example, your emails?

Regardless of the content, what a poorly written professional email really says is this: “I’m lazy, and I don’t really care about what I’m talking about. I’m writing this email because I have to, not because I want to, and that’s why I didn’t bother to spell-check it before hitting Send. Even though I may be an intelligent, creative, and hard-working individual, you’ll never know that, because you probably can’t see past my glaring mistakes. Essentially, I really don’t give a hoot about this job.”

By contrast, this is what a well-written, professional email says: “I am smart, concise, and focused on my work. I know what I’m talking about, and you can trust me because I’ve proven that I understand the basics. I take my work seriously, so you can count on me.” See the difference there?

Your work conduct should be professional across all media. Even the smallest things, like one- or two-line emails, are a reflection of your competence level. This means that everything you do at work—from your professional emails, to your outfit, to the tone you use in meetings and conference calls—say something about how seriously you take your job. Do you want your coworkers or boss to think that you only take your professional emails as seriously as you take text messages to your friends? No? Then don’t write your professional emails the way you would write a text message. No short forms, no little faces with tongues sticking out, no LOLs or OMGs.

Use a tone that is consistent with that which is required in your industry; this will often mean using the same tone in your professional emails that you would use in a meeting. Then, be absolutely sure that you proofread your work. Look for typos and other errors before you send out emails, to save yourself embarrassment and to build your work image. You would never say something is just a résumé, just a business proposal, or just a cover letter. And you should never say it’s just an email either.


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How to Be Miserable at College or University

Be Miserable at College or University

Be Miserable at College or UniversityChocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. Back scratches. Led Zeppelin. Puppies. College success. What do these things all have in common? They are all so totally overrated. Let’s just think about this logically:

Cookie dough and ice cream, together—why overdo the yumminess?

Relieving itchiness with the appropriate application of friction—a pointless endeavor, really. You’ll probably just get itchy again anyway.

The combination of intelligent lyrics, soaring vocals, and insanely original guitar riffs—like, aren’t you just so over it?

Furry bundles of happiness—can you say, “ew”?

And finally, feeling satisfied and fulfilled on a daily basis while you learn, grow, and change by succeeding in college—I mean, really, let’s not be ridiculous.

You don’t want to learn how to succeed in college. You know better than that! You, my friend, are looking to be miserable at college, and if there’s anything I know about in my plain ice cream, itchy, silent, puppy-less life, it’s how to be miserable. Here are some tips to help you become just as miserable as I am while you trudge your way through college.

1. Study, study, then study some more.

School is about learning, right? Well, hop to it, pal! The only way to attain college success is to make a 200% commitment to getting good grades. Your roommate wants you to come out for dinner? No way! You get invited to a party? Don’t even think about it! You have the urge to watch a movie? Tough luck, bud! You’re trying to be miserable, and one of the best ways to do that is to remove the concept of “balance” entirely from your student life. Place your entire self-worth on your academic college success, and I guarantee you’ll be miserable in two weeks flat.

2. Party like a rock star.

Party like a RockstarIf dedicating your entire existence to academics isn’t enough to make you miserable, consider doing exactly the opposite. You’re not looking to learn how to succeed in college—or in life, for that matter—so don’t bother pretending that you care about assigned reading, attending class, or even sleeping like a normal human. You’re only young once, so now is the time to be intentionally irresponsible. Party enough to make yourself feel like the student loan you took out has gone completely to waste, and then think about how long it will take you to repay that wasted investment. Consider your transition to utter misery complete.

3. Take classes you hate.

You know what’s way cooler than being a happy history major? Why, being a miserable biology major, of course. Since you’re not looking to learn how to succeed in college, I advise you to take only classes in which you have no interest. When I think of students who haven’t attained college success, the first people who come to mind are the aspiring doctors whose parents chose their majors for them. They had no hope of making it through their undergrads, let alone completing medical degrees, and they knew it. They were much more miserable than the people who were actually getting something out of their post-secondary educations, so I encourage you to emulate them in your quest for college misery.

4. Don’t try to make friends.

You already have lots of friends, and you want new ones about as badly as you want college success. Who has time to meet new people or to try new things? Sure, this is going to be the only time in your life when you’re literally surrounded by thousands of people who are very qualified to be your friends. You’re all around the same age, you’re all dealing with similar issues, and many of you probably share common interests. If you were looking to be happy, you would totally take advantage of your situation and develop relationships with new people. However, because you scorn happiness and all those who strive for it, you’ll be much better off clinging to high school friendships with people who live in different cities, states, or maybe even countries. Those unsatisfying relationships will be sure to keep you good and miserable.

5. Transform your dorm room into a cozy cocoon, and make darn sure that you never become a butterfly.

A sleeping puppy.

Your bedroom should be your sanctuary. This is where you will study, sleep off that wicked hangover, or just avoid other people. If you make your dorm room comfy enough, you’ll never have much reason to leave. You can’t possibly achieve college success or general life satisfaction from the safety of your room, which is why your room is where you must stay. Don’t join any clubs, don’t sit on any councils, and certainly don’t consider spending time in public places unless absolutely necessary. You might experience growth, and self-development is certainly the very last thing you want in your quest to be miserable at college.


There you have it: a complete guide to post-secondary misery. Personally, I think that aiming for unhappiness is the smartest way to approach college. After all, you can’t be disappointed if you never have any hope to begin with, right? However, if you give the misery thing a go and realize it’s not exactly your cup of tea, you may consider checking out some of Inklyo’s other resources for students who actually want to know how to succeed in college. You know, it’s good to have a back-up plan.

Image source: Pavan Trikutam/,,

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15 Ways to Fail at Social Media Marketing

Ways to Fail at Social Media

Ways to Fail at Social Media You’ve accepted the importance of social media marketing for your business. You’ve read all the statistics about the increasing value of social media for your content marketing plan, and you’ve begun integrating social media into your business strategy. Good for you! You’re already in the game. While other people are still trying to figure out how to tie their skates, you’re out there doing laps and taking practice shots. But how many of those shots are you missing?

When it comes to social media marketing, there’s a lot to learn. Between all the various networking sites and blogs—not to mention other aspects of your marketing plan—social media can be overwhelming. If you never learn the rules, you’re never going to have the competitive edge you need. You’ll never gain the audience you want if you aren’t creating and sharing the right kind of content, and as a result, you might never be able to come up with clever sports analogies for your blog posts. (Also, you know, your conversion rates may suffer.) So, because I know you’re eager to dazzle your loyal fans and prospective customers with your new-found aptitude for social media, here are 15 marketing fails to avoid when using social media marketing for your business.

1. Bragging

Here’s the thing: for one reason or another, your fans and followers already like you. Maybe they want to keep an eye out for promotions, maybe they’ve purchased from you before and are big on brand loyalty, or maybe they just like your blog posts. The bottom line here is that, in some way, you’ve already won them over. So, unless you’re determined to change their minds, don’t spend all your time on social media bragging about how great your company is. It’s a big turnoff for your followers, 45% of whom will probably unfollow you if you’re too heavy on the self-promotion.

2. Being Antisocial

It’s in the name: social media. The whole point is to reach out and create a community based on your company or brand. Not being social on social media is like holding a press conference and refusing to answer any questions. Take advantage of your social media accounts by retweeting, sharing, and responding to your followers.

3. Treating Social Media as a Side Project

Social media editors have borne the brunt of many jokes over the past few years. You may still think you don’t need a person dedicated to managing sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Depending on the size of your business, you may or may not be correct; you may actually need several people dedicated to your social media. The fact is, social media marketing done right can lead to a huge increase in conversions for your company. Don’t believe me? Here’s some food for thought: companies that generate more than 1,000 Likes for their Facebook pages also tend to receive approximately 1,400 website visits per day, and approximately 46% of online visitors take social media into account when they make purchase decisions. Take advantage of social media by investing time and money into your social media strategy.

4. Inconsistency: A Copywriter’s Nightmare

The copy on your social media pages needs to be consistent with your brand’s voice. While you may need to take a slightly different approach to tweets than you do to blog posts, your overall tone needs to be consistent.

5. Ignoring Your Followers

Your social media followers aren’t just interested in what you have to say to them—they also want to be able to communicate with you quickly and conveniently. If someone asks you a question that you don’t answer, other followers will think you don’t care about your followers (and, by association, your customers). Take the time to respond to both positive and negative feedback. This may be especially important for negative feedback; 25% of consumers who use social media to complain about a product or experience expect a response within one hour of that complaint.

6. Automation Gone Wrong

Automation can be very helpful when you are managing social media across several different sites and platforms. However, as with everything, automation in social media can go too far. Make sure you have a human behind your social media to avoid embarrassing mishaps like these.

7. Not Measuring

Naturally, the consequences of not measuring your social media-related metrics are that you will never know whether what you’re doing is actually working. What you focus on measuring will depend on what your social media goals are: are you trying to drive traffic to your site, or are you trying to directly improve your ROI? Whatever your goals, you need to measure your social media metrics to see if you are achieving them.

8. Talking Their Ears Off

Don't bore your followers. Written posts are great, but visual content is better. I’m not saying you should trade all your blog posts in for videos, photos, and infographics, but you should integrate some visual content into your social media posts. If written material is all you have to offer, your followers are going to get bored.

9. Being Oblivious to Current Events

As I mentioned before, automation can be great when you’re managing several social media accounts. Using sites like Hootsuite to schedule your posts can save you lots of time; however, you need to remain aware of current events. There have been a few incidences of unintentionally insensitive social media posts being made by companies due to prescheduled posts, like this one. If some terrible tragedy has occurred, a tweet about your newest promotion or a funny dog meme will very likely come off as distasteful.

10. Forgetting that People Buy from People

Computers are extremely advanced, but they are not advanced enough to create content for social media sites—only humans can do that. So why are you emulating a robot in the copy on your social media sites? Your followers like seeing your human side. Tell some jokes, share some insider info about your office, or share a funny picture. Revealing the real people behind your brand will likely garner you some new (and human!) followers.

11. Repeating Yourself

Repurposing your content for different venues is good—repeatedly reusing the exact same content is not. Don’t bombard your followers with the same content in the same format. If you do, you’re running the risk that 21% of those followers will leave your social media page behind for good.

12. Winging It

Twitter's logo.When we’re talking about your personal Twitter account, you are totally free to “wing it.” Fly by the seat of your pants, go where the wind takes you, play it by ear—any clichéd expression about not making plans will work. But when it comes to your social media marketing, you need to have a plan. Creating and following through with a social media strategy will seriously improve the effectiveness of your social media efforts.

13. Providing Useless Content

Content marketing is all about creating and distributing quality content. You need to provide your followers with information they will not easily find elsewhere. This also includes the content you share; if your social media pages are a source of quality information on specific topics, it won’t matter if not all of this material was created by you. The hope here is that other people are sharing your original content on their social media sites too!

14. Being Sloppy

Typos, grammatical errors, and punctuation mistakes are never acceptable in your company’s social media posts. If you are careless about the quality of your posts, you are being careless about the number of followers you have, which of course means you are being careless about your company’s leads. If you need to invest in an editing service for your social media posts, do it. Do whatever you need to ensure that your posts are error-free.

15. Not Taking Social Media Seriously

If this article has done nothing else, I hope it has proved to you that social media marketing can and should be an integral part of your company’s marketing strategy. Your social media presence needs to be taken seriously, and that means avoiding gaffes like this. Avoid social media fails by making sure your employees understand the importance of your company’s social media strategy.

Image sources: Counselling/, Wojtek Witkowski/, Nemo/

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5 Tips for Improving Your Essay-Writing Speed (With Help from Bilbo Baggins)

Essay-Writing Speed

Essay-Writing SpeedWhat do most students have in common with Bilbo Baggins? Besides enjoying at least six meals a day, the trait most students share with our favorite hobbit is the desperate need they sometimes have for more time. Time is what Bilbo begs for when he can’t solve Gollum’s riddle (right), the answer to the riddle being—of course—none other than time itself.

Sure, in the scene above, Bilbo is at serious risk of being eaten by Gollum, while most students just have a lot of reading and essay writing to do. Still, time is the important thing here, and it seems that neither students nor “hobbitses” (as Gollum would say) can ever get enough of it. If only there were some way to make writing an essay a faster process . . .

The bad news? I can’t get you more time. Not even Gandalf can manage that, and I’m certainly no Gandalf. But what I can actually do is teach you how to use less time to accomplish more when you’re writing an essay, which is pretty much exactly the same thing! So, if you’re feeling well fed and ready to learn, prepare yourself for an unexpected journey into the art of writing an essay as efficiently as possible.

Step 1: Make a plan.

Imagine that you’re going on a trip. Perhaps you’re even traveling to the Lonely Mountain to face a very vain dragon in hopes of reclaiming some treasure. Now, how would you rather make that journey: with a map or without one? I think we can both agree that using the map would save you quite a lot of time that would otherwise be spent wandering—right?

Just like any adventurous Took, you shouldn’t try to start writing an essay without first creating a map for yourself. Yes, it takes time to write an outline. However, this is time that you will more than make up later in the writing process and that will ultimately improve your essay-writing speed.

The key elements to have figured out before you begin writing are your thesis statement and the evidence and arguments you will be using to support that thesis statement. Once you have these things, you basically have a road map to your final destination: completion of your essay.

Step 2: Do your research.

This step should really be done in conjunction with the former step. After all, what’s the point of writing a thesis if you can’t support it with research? Your research, including direct quotations from primary sources, should be part of your outline. Finding quotations from scholarly articles and books to support your arguments before you actually start writing will make the actual process of writing much faster, as you will have fewer necessary interruptions. (No, Facebook is not a necessary interruption—nor is a second breakfast. Sorry.)

Step 3: Just write.

Bag EndOkay. Your map is written, you’re out of your hobbit-hole door and into the world, and you’re ready to actually start writing an essay. You still want to know how to write faster? Well, friend, the key is to start by actually writing. Not agonizing over every clause, not questioning all life decisions made thus far, and certainly not watching Netflix. Just write. Try your best to communicate the ideas you’ve painstakingly outlined in your map, but most of all, just get those fingers typing and start writing. Write. There will be some clunky sentences, there will be some punctuation errors, and there may even be some paragraphs that don’t make the final cut. However, if you don’t start writing soon, there won’t be anything to cut, and then you’ll really want to know how to write faster.

Step 4: Tackle your essay in sections.

Of course, as good as the “just write” mentality is, it can only keep you going for so long. Writing an essay in one big chunk is like trying to travel from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain in a single day; that is to say, it is downright impossible without the aid of some kind of anachronistic aircraft, and very dangerous to even try doing. Instead of doing everything at once, think of your essay in terms of meaningful sections. Focus on completing just one section at a time, and give yourself time for short breaks between writing sessions. Dinner with dwarves, break. Meeting with Elrond, break. Goblin kidnapping, break. You get the idea!

Step 5: Take a break before editing your work.

Make sure that you give yourself some time away from your essay before returning to revise your first draft. Editing your essay with a fresh mind will make the process much quicker, as mistakes you made while writing will be much more obvious to your eye and to your well-rested brain. While it’s true that the time period needed to complete your essay will be longer, the amount of time you will actually have spent on your essay will be much, much shorter, leaving you lots of time to work on other things!


There you have it, folks: five ways to improve your essay-writing speed. You now know how to write faster—or, you know, how to complete an essay using less time overall. This more efficient method of writing an essay should give you more time to accomplish other important things, like rereading your favorite stories (cough—Tolkien!), working on your riddle-solving abilities, and perfecting your Gollum impersonation—all pursuits worthy of your extra time and devotion.

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Don’t Laugh at Me: 5 Ways to Help Out International Students

5 Ways to Help Out International Students

5 Ways to Help Out International StudentsStarting university or college is a huge learning curve for everyone. Some students are adjusting to living the post-secondary lifestyle while commuting to school and living at home with their parents; some are just getting settled into their new dorm rooms; and some have traveled great distances to attend school. Everyone is just a little bit unsure about how to manage the year ahead. But, regardless of the kinds of adjustments you find yourself making as you begin your post-secondary journey, you need to remember that others are experiencing new things as well. For instance, international students who have just left their home countries to study abroad might have even bigger adjustments to make than you do. If everyone tries to help each other out, things will go much more smoothly for the whole group. So what can you do to help the international students you meet during your studies?

Tip #1: Offer Assistance

To some international students, even the simplest activities can seem overwhelming. Not knowing or understanding social and cultural norms—or even conventions that might seem incredibly natural to others, like meeting with a professor during office hours or hanging out in the student lounge—can be overwhelming and even embarrassing. Depending on their proficiency in English and their exposure to North American culture, international students might avoid many activities that would ultimately prove helpful or enjoyable to them simply because they’re anxious about participating in these activities.

As a person who is familiar with your own country’s cultural norms, you can be a great help to international students in these types of situations. All it takes is a friendly inquiry to see if there is anything you can do to help a foreign classmate who is struggling. If you can clearly see that someone is having a hard time, offer to help. Be a real Canadian about it: be nice. Remember that a small and simple act of courtesy on your part might make a huge difference to someone else.

Tip #2: Be Patient

If you are having a conversation with an international student whose first language isn’t English, you might have to speak a bit more slowly than you’re used to. You both might have a hard time understanding each other’s accents, and it might take the person you’re speaking to some extra time to plan sentences before saying them.

The fact that language barriers can be frustrating is no excuse for avoiding them. This goes for international and native students alike. International students should make a point of talking to native speakers to improve their speaking and listening skills, and native speakers should engage in these conversations just as they would with any other conversation. You should also keep in mind that people who are learning a second language often have better listening than speaking skills. This means that, while international students might need a moment to organize their response to your question, they very likely did understand the question. Being patient and making friends with international students is well worth it, as you’ll likely learn as much from them as they will from you.

Tip #3: Be Willing to Learn

Depending on where you come from and what experiences you’ve had, your time at university might be your first real exposure to different cultures, and that in itself can be intimidating. Remember that university is not the time to stick to your comfort zone—you’re there to learn, after all! Becoming friends with international students means that you get to teach each other about your respective cultures. Even if you haven’t traveled to another country to study, you can still learn about and appreciate them. Be open to learning about your new friends’ families, religious beliefs, favorite foods, and languages. They get to learn about your life; you get to learn about their lives. This will help you appreciate each other on both a personal and cultural level. Of course, this will work out only if you’re willing not just to teach others about your own culture but to learn about theirs in return.

Tip #4: Be Inclusive

Be InclusiveMaking friends during university can be a bit of a process. When you start school, you’ll likely find yourself hanging out with large groups of people. This will be especially true if you are living in a dorm. Over time, that group will probably either dissolve or break into smaller subgroups. This is completely normal, as it takes some time for everyone to figure out whom they get along with best and whom they would like to be friends with.

Unfortunately, international students are sometimes left out of these large groups, and as such, they never get to establish themselves within the smaller subgroups. The solution here is simple: be sure to invite the international students from your residence to take part in the large group’s activities. Invite them to parties, outings, or even just casual hangouts that don’t really require invitations. Though not all students will accept your offers, they most certainly can’t accept them if they’re never extended. Make it a point to make international students feel welcome, as many of them will likely feel isolated from you and from other students if you don’t.

Tip #5: Don’t Laugh—Literally

Just like everyone else, international students are bound to make mistakes from time to time. They might do something that is socially unusual; they might use an English phrase incorrectly. Perhaps they might do or say something else that seems funny. No matter how funny these mistakes might seem to you, remember that they can be terribly embarrassing for the people making them. Instead of laughing at international students for the mistakes they make, then, try to help them avoid making the same mistakes in the future. If you end up being friends with an international student for a long time, you might be able to bring up this mistake at a point when the other person will also find it funny. Until such a time arrives, be nice—don’t laugh!


Helping international students feel welcome is really quite simple: be nice, and treat others the way you would want to be treated. There’s no reason for our differences to divide us; indeed, if we want them to, they can work to bring us together.

Image sources: Minerva Studio/,

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5 Types of (Not So) Professional Emails You’re Sure to Encounter

Types of (Not So) Professional Emails

Types of (Not So) Professional Emails Coffee brews, keyboards click, and professional emails fly. Office life is one of constant correspondence, sometimes even with people you could reach out and swat if the desire struck—which, undeniably, it does from time to time (especially when you find yourself the recipient of one of these five common—and irritating—types of professional emails.

1. The “I don’t want to bother you, but…”

What it looks like: Someone asking very politely for a favor.

What it really is: A desperate, clinging, last-ditch cry for help.

RE: A Quick Favor

Hi Kathryn,

How are you? How’s the reboot going? I hope you’re not too busy. How are the kids? I hope everything is well. I’m so sorry to do this to you, but I could really use your help with the project I’m working on. I really thought I could complete it by the 12th, but it wasn’t until I really got going that I realized how massive of a project it really was. If you could help me out, I would really appreciate it. I’ve attached a spreadsheet with the tasks that still need to be completed—could you please let me know if you’re available to take on any of these tasks? Thank you so much! I can’t tell you how big of a help it would be. I don’t think I could do this without your help. Just let me know as soon as you can how many tasks you’ll be taking on. You’re amazing. I’ll be in my office until 3, so feel free to pop by with any questions you may have. You’re the best!

Gratefully yours,


2. The short (and not-so-sweet) request

What it looks like: A quick email including a brief instruction about something important.

What it really is: A very clear message that somebody (you know who you are) has done something unacceptable.

RE: Holidays

All time-off requests for July must be submitted by this Friday. Requests received after this will not be processed. Don’t even bother asking. Thank you.

3. The TMI and then some

What it looks like: A professional email about something office-related.

What it really is: Thinly veiled office gossip.

RE: Tuesday’s Meeting

Hey Heather,

I’ve been asked to send you the minutes from Tuesday’s meeting. I’ve attached them to this email. In case you haven’t already heard, the meeting was an absolute disaster. Julie threw a fit about the late reports, and I thought that Erica was going to lose it when Julie accused her of “not caring” about the completion of that competitor analysis. It was pretty intense. I don’t want to name any names, but let’s just say that a certain IT guy probably won’t be writing code for very much longer, if you catch my drift. It’s probably lucky that you missed it. Don’t worry, though—I’ll get you up to speed when we go out for drinks on Saturday. That’s if Bryan agrees to take care of Koen while I go out. If not, Ko will have to come with us. We may have to reconsider the bar scene. Anyway, here are the minutes. See you at lunch!


4. The “Ha-ha, I’m not here”

This dog is appalled at an unprofessional email he just received.What it looks like: A polite out-of-office message.

What it really is: A co-worker bragging about the fact that he or she is on vacation while you are stuck at work sending emails.

RE: Out of Office

Thank you for your message. Unfortunately, I am out of the office, and will be until June 26th. If you have an urgent need to contact me, please stop, think, and remember that there is literally no such thing as an “urgent” Human Resources matter. You may consider contacting my assistant, Karen, who—for the next three weeks—will be taking on five times her regular amount of responsibility and receiving absolutely no compensation for this extra work. Thank you.

Kindest regards,


5. The passive-aggressive “You’re wrong”

What it looks like: A helpful, professional email containing important information.

What it really is: A claim on professional territory—a metaphorical lifting of the leg, if you will.

RE: Memo Color

Hello Taylor,

I was just going over last week’s meeting minutes, and I noticed that some concern was voiced over the color of paper the memos have been printed on lately. Of course, I understand this concern, as memo color is a very important office issue that needs to be properly addressed. The minutes state that you personally suggested the memos should be printed on pink paper. While I agree with you that, aesthetically, pink would absolutely be the ideal memo color, I regret that I must be the one to inform you that such a color does not comply with our company’s policy on memos. I’ve attached a copy of our memo policy to this email; as you will see, this policy clearly states that all memos must be printed on yellow paper. Luckily, this is the measure I have been complying with during my five-year tenure as the company’s official memo printer. So we really dodged a bullet there. I hope that clears up any confusion you may have had about the memo paper color. Thank you.




These examples may be a bit on the extreme side, but I’m sure we can all think of a time when we’ve received a professional email that was just a little off in tone. If you’re worried about accidentally sending a professional email like one of the five shown above, you may want to consider checking out a professional editing service before hitting the Send button. When it comes to communication, it’s often better to be safe than sorry!


Image sources: Javier Brosch/, soloway/