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Writing Tips

An old friend of mine runs a marketing and communications company in Ottawa.  When I first met Ron Jette in the early days of Eagle his focus was on writing, and that remains one of his strengths.  He produces a regular newsletter which always has some excellent tips and ideas … so go sign up at the Adams Jette Marketing + Communications website.

The following is some excellent advice about writing from his latest newsletter …


Back to basics
by Ron Jette

I know you’re smart and you know you’re smart. But does your writing know it? 

It always amazes me how often really bad writing and really bright people find each other. Whether it’s because they don’t think it’s important or they are in too much of a hurry, simple and easy-to-fix errors, can make you look, well, not so smart.

Perhaps the errors I see the most have to do with homonyms. Rings a bell but you’re not sure what they are, right? Homonyms are words that sound the same but have markedly different meanings. Many are easy to spot. Who wouldn’t know the difference between Jim and gym? Or hire and higher? But many are not so obvious.

(A special note has to be made here about the importance ofnot relying on software to check your spelling. Here are two sentences that look perfectly fine to a spell checker: “Watt dew I due now, I wandered?” “That was knot a gaffe my idle wood have made.” )

Although there are dozens of examples, here are a few homonyms I see misused all the time, often in the writing of otherwise really great communicators:

ad, add

aid, aide

augur, auger

bear, bare

buy, by

carat, karat and caret (Oh, and carrot, although people usually get this one write, I mean right.)

censor, sensor

chord, cord

do, due, dew

fare, fair

gaff, gaffe

idle, idol

its it’s

medal, mettle

overdo, overdue

phase, faze (this is news to many people)

pore, pour

their, there, they’re

tea, tee

too, two, to

ware, wear

your you’re

There isn’t room to explain how to get these right each time–you wouldn’t remember all that information anyway. What you might remember after looking over this list, however, is that there are a few words that are real problems. When you see them, stop, if only for a second, to make sure you’ve made the right choice.