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How to Know What Belongs in Your Reports

Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training
Imagine that someone asks you for a report. If the person who asks is your manager, you may know what he or she wants in the document. But if the individual is from the executive team or another department or even a client company, you may not know what or how much to include. Here are tips that will help you recognize the best content.  

1. Imagine that instead of a report, the individual asked to interview you on the topic. What do you think he or she would ask? For example, imagine that you just returned from a trip to another country to visit a division of your company, a client’s office, or a factory. What would the other person ask you?
Here are some ideas:
  1. What was the purpose of your trip?
  2. Where did you go? 
  3. When did you travel? 
  4. Who traveled with you? 
  5. With whom did you meet there? At what facilities?
    (The questions above are the basics, which you can cover briefly.)
  6. What did you accomplish on the trip?
  7. What did you learn
  8. What do you recommend based on your trip? 
  9. Overall, how useful was the trip?
  10. Does anyone need to follow up on the trip? If so, who? How? 
You can use this question method to recognize what belongs in any report. Here are sample questions for an update: 
  1. What is this report about?
  2. What time period does this report cover?
  3. Are things on track?
  4. What has been accomplished since the last report?
  5. Have any important events taken place?
  6. Have there been any problems or obstacles? If so, how have they been managed?
  7. Is there anything I need to worry about?
  8. Where can I get more information
If you are writing a very important report, such as one to the president of your organization, you may want to have someone else review your list of questions to see whether you are on target before you write the report.  

When you feel you have a good list of questions, you are ready to write a draft. Just answer the questions. You can even use parts of the questions for headings, for example, “Purpose of the Trip” and “Trip Dates.” 

2. Recognize the purpose of the report. Will your director use the report to make a decision about financing a project? Will another team use your report to design software tests? Will your peers read the report to incorporate information into a proposal? Will the report go into a file to document a current situation? Write a sentence that states the purpose of the report, and use that statement to help you recognize what must be included (and what should be left out) to support that purpose. 

3. Consider your larger purpose for writing the report. Think beyond the fact that you are writing the report to satisfy someone’s request or a job requirement. What would you like the report to do for you or others? For example, for the trip report: 
  • Is your purpose to help build a better relationship with the overseas office? 
  • Is your purpose to illustrate the critical need for more involvement with the factory? 
  • Do you want to show the monetary value of the trip to get approval for travel in your 2015 budget?
  • Do you want to impress your new manager with the clarity of your thinking and writing
As you think about what to include, keep your larger purpose in mind so that you can be sure your report supports that goal. 

4. Ask for a sample report if you are unsure what your reader wants. Especially if you are new in a job or have never written the kind of report requested, ask whether sample reports are available. Review those samples and notice what works for you as a reader. Pay special attention to the kind of information that is included and its relevance. 

5. Recognize that your readers have asked for a report–not a book. They want the essential information–not all the details. To restrain yourself from including too much, try these approaches: 
  • Leave out any information that does not answer a reader’s question. For instance, if your reader would not ask what hotel you stayed at or whether you had any great meals, do not include those details. 
  • Avoid using chronological order to report. Chronological order may cause you to include irrelevant details just because they happened.
  • Use headings, preferably descriptive headings such as “Recommendation: Send a Team to the 2015 Conference” and “Budget Required: $85,000.” Headings will stop you from including information that does not belong in that section.  
  • Summarize. For example, in a report on a client meeting, do not include he said-I said details. Instead, report agreements and outcomes. In a financial or technical report, do not include raw data in the body of the report. If it’s essential, put it in an appendix. 
  • Include links to more information and offers to provide more. For instance, in a report on a conference, link to the conference program or offer to provide certain conference handouts. 
  • Use fewer examples. One or two powerful examples can achieve your goal. Additional examples provide length–not strength. 
  • Use tables and charts rather than sentences to capture numerical information. Graphical illustrations help you leave out extraneous information. Be sure to label each graphic so its relevance is clear to you and your reader. 
When you succeed with a report, keep it in an electronic folder of model reports. Its success will give you confidence, and its strengths will inspire you the next time someone asks for a report. 
Business Writing With Heart won two Silver Benjamin Franklin Awards from the Independent Book Publishers Association last month. You can order the paperback book from Syntax Training or your favorite bookseller, and you can get the e-book and paperback from Amazon and  Barnes & Noble
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50 Sophisticated Words You Should Start Using


It might be time for phasing out some of the played-out words in your vocabulary and replacing them with creative alternatives? Don’t feel bad; everyone you know has been guilty of letting a “fail” or an “LOL” slip at least once in a while. But those words are tired. They need a long rest. Here are 50 sophisticated utterances to deploy instead.

Cyber Substitutes

 

  1. Supreme: Epic doesn’t mean what you think it means. Use this instead, meaning classic or perfect.
  2. Blunder: For the love of grammar, “fail” is not a noun. On the other hand, “blunder” works as both a noun and a verb. How supreme.
  3. Triumph: Instead of “FTW,” you can say, “For The Triumph!” We bet you money you can’t say it without feeling like Maximus.
  4. Fidus Achates: More than some internet acquaintance, a fidus Achates (“FEED-us uh-KAH-tays“) is a true friend. It’s like “BFF” in Latin.
  5. Fancy: It’s only a matter of time before you’ll be able to “fancy” a link or status update for which you wish to show appreciation.
  6. Cachinnate: Forget about laughing your a** off. Tell them you’re cachinnating (CACK-in-ate-ing) heartily.
  7. Woe is me: It sounds a bit like Yoda-ese, but instead of saying FML, go biblical with “woe is me.”
  8. Piquant: If you simply must inform the world how scrumptious the food you are currently eating is, please refrain from saying “nom nom nom.” Use this descriptor instead to convey appetizing flavor.
  9. Baffling: It’s too easy to just drop a “WTH” (or some variation) on some activity or news that perplexes you. Why not be baffled?
  10. Indubitably: The “Really?” ship has sailed. To express ironic dismay, go with, “Indubitably?” Trust us, it’s a can’t-miss.
  11. Desultory: Don’t be a serial “random“-dropper. If something is unexpected, call it “desultory.”
  12. Ergo: Starting a status update with “so” is nonsensical because “so” means “therefore.” But if you’re going to use “so” correctly, “ergo” works just as well and makes you sound twice as classy.

 

 

Better Buzzwords

 

  1. Donjon: Men, have you been relegated to a small segment of the house referred to as your “man cave?” You don’t have to take that. Call it your donjon, like the stronghold of a castle.
  2. Garrison: “Occupy” has been done to death. Use this if you’re moving in and taking over.
  3. Aspiration: Something that goes on your Bucket List (which hopefully you’re not still saying) is an aspiration.
  4. Pater familias: Bad: “baby daddy.” Better: “father.” Best: “pater familias.”
  5. Minutiae-peddling: This phrase is our own creation. Since 40% of all tweets are pointless babble, instead of saying “I’m tweeting” you could say, “I’m peddling minutiae.

 

Underage Upgrades

 

  1. Alas: “Oh, snap” is so out. All the cool kids are saying “alas!” after their putdowns.
  2. Forsooth: All the kids (and some adults) simply adore saying, “I know, right?” Kick it old school Archaic with “forsooth,” meaning “indeed.”
  3. Jocular: People’s eyes glaze over when they read “LOL.” Send them scrambling for a dictionary when you reply, “How jocular!
  4. Gamin: It means “street urchin,” but we can change the meaning to be more neutral if we put our minds to it. After all, we did the same thing with “dude.”
  5. Paraphernalia: Remember the nice officer who referred to your “drug paraphernalia?” That was a fancier way of saying drug stuff.
  6. Incogitable: To the kids, everything’s “wack” or “crazy.” But the silver-tongued teenager of 2012 will be sharing his or her disbelief with this mouthful.

 

Professional Pick-me-ups

 

  1. Demiurgic: “Innovative” is the second-most overused resume filler word. Since you’re already tooting your own horn, compare yourself to a Gnostic creative deity with this word.
  2. Ambitious: “Motivated” is another résumé snooze-inducer. Go ahead and say you’re ambitious; it’ll add a little edge to it that will help you stand out from the pack.
  3. Assiduous: Don’t bother telling employers you are “dynamic;” everyone they’ve interviewed has been dynamic. But if you want an original way to tell them you are hardworking, use this.
  4. Henceforth: For some reason, “going forward” has caught on as a tack-on to the end of serious statements to make them sound more complete. We’re not sure how you can go any way but forward, but at least use “henceforth” instead.
  5. “_________”: That’s a blank to represent an alternative to saying, It is what it is.” “It is what it is” is the equivalent of saying nothing, thus it has no alternative. Just keep quiet for once instead.
  6. Pandemic: Sure, a video can go viral by getting a few million clicks. But aim higher for your company; shoot for a billion clicks. People will be forced to admit your work has gone pandemic.
  7. Withal: You’re not still using “irregardless“, are you? Make the point of “nevertheless” with withal, a great word that people will think you misspelled.
  8. Veritably: Love, Actually would have been so much more original if it had been called “Love, Veritably.”
  9. Impetus: When you execs talk about giving your employees an impetus, you might be discussing raises or donuts in the break room or some other motivational tool.

 

Romantic Retools

 

  1. Cherish: Take a lesson from The Association and discover another way to say “I love you.
  2. Paragon: Tell your girlfriend she is a paragon of beauty and you’ll score major brownie points once she’s looked it up.
  3. Pulchritudinous: …Or you could call her “pulchritudinous.” How fantastic is that word? Of course, you will have to quickly assure her it’s a compliment.
  4. Recherché: Your wife’s dress isn’t just elegant, it’s exquisite, refined, exotic… recherché.
  5. Despondent: Sad is what you are when you spill wine on your pants. When your baby leaves you high and dry in the cold, cruel world, you’re despondent.
  6. Loathe: People say “hate” is a strong word, but it’s got nothing on “loathe.
  7. Abjure: There’s no doubt saying you “dumped” someone is colorful, but if you want to say it in style and with authority, say you abjured that cheatin’ man.
  8. Yearn: Do justice to your desire to possess that special someone. You don’t want to date them, you yearn for them.

 

Dignified Descriptors

 

  1. Atrocious: You spilled your coffee, broke a shoelace, smeared the lipstick on your face. That’s not a bad day, it’s atrocious.
  2. Spanking: The only socially-acceptable way to incorporate “spanking” into a polite conversation is to use it instead of the word “good.”
  3. Transcendent: If you say something is “awesome,” you’re saying it inspires fear or awe in you. So pizza cannot be awesome. What it can be is transcendent or excellent.
  4. Gobs: Make your old English teacher happy and stop using “lots.” “Gobs” is so much more fun to say anyway.
  5. Opined: “Said” is perfectly functional and perfectly acceptable and perfectly boring. If someone is giving their opinion, say they “opined.”
  6. Parry: Really, there’s no reason to use “said” unless you write for a newspaper. Parry back and forth with your debate partner using your newfound word gems.
  7. Asseverate: Last one: To asseverate is to declare earnestly or solemnly. So help you God.
  8. Altitudinous: Get creative when referring to your tall friend from high school. “That guy was downright altitudinous!
  9. Corpulent: If you’re going to call someone fat, at least find an unusual way to do it, like with this word.
  10. Lummox: So many great insult words, so little time. Take a line from Stewie and call that moron a “bovine lummox.”

SOURCE

13 wonderful old english words Another 20 Forgotten words that should be brought back justenglish.me

Positive personality Adjectives List justenglish.me Important infrequently used words to know justenglish.me

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Only the British could invent such a language

http://www.readysetmom.com

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

nonstick-pans

If the plural of man is always called men,
Then shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

Hat

Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

And, in closing, if Father is Pop,  how come Mother‘s not Mop?

If people from POLAND are called POLES
then people from HOLLAND should be then HOLES
and what to say about GERMANSGERMS?!

SOURCE

Click to read: Crazy English

Image courtesy:
  1. http://www.readysetmom.com
  2. http://www.nonstick-pans.com
  3. http://www.thinkdigital.net

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Tips to Improve Your Business Vocabulary

Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training

In the business writing classes I lead, people often tell me they want to use the right verbiage to come across professionally. The first tip I offer them is to get rid of words such as verbiage, whose meaning has been muddied and is not what people typically think it is. (Read my blog post “Watch Your Verbiage” to learn the many meanings of verbiage.)

Apply these tips to improve your language:

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The 7 Cs of Communication

A Checklist for Clear Communication

Think of how often you communicate with people during your day. You write emails, facilitate meetings, participate in conference calls, create reports, devise presentations, debate with your colleagues… the list goes on.

We can spend almost our entire day communicating. So, how can we provide a huge boost to our productivity? We can make sure that we communicate in the clearest, most effective way possible.

This is why the 7 Cs of Communication are helpful. The 7 Cs provide a checklist for making sure that your meetings, emails, conference calls, reports, and presentations are well constructed and clear – so your audience gets your message.

According to the 7 Cs, communication needs to be:

  • Clear.
  • Concise.
  • Concrete.
  • Correct.
  • Coherent.
  • Complete.
  • Courteous.

In this article, we look at each of the 7 Cs of Communication, and we’ll illustrate each element with both good and bad examples.

1. Clear

When writing or speaking to someone, be clear about your goal or message. What is your purpose in communicating with this person? If you’re not sure, then your audience won’t be sure either.

To be clear, try to minimize the number of ideas in each sentence. Make sure that it’s easy for your reader to understand your meaning. People shouldn’t have to “read between the lines” and make assumptions on their own to understand what you’re trying to say.

Bad Example

Hi John,

I wanted to write you a quick note about Daniel, who’s working in your department. He’s a great asset, and I’d like to talk to you more about him when you have time.

Best,

Skip

What is this email about? Well, we’re not sure. First, if there are multiple Daniels in John’s department, John won’t know who Skip is talking about.

Next, what is Daniel doing, specifically, that’s so great? We don’t know that either. It’s so vague that John will definitely have to write back for more information.

Last, what is the purpose of this email? Does Skip simply want to have an idle chat about Daniel, or is there some more specific goal here? There’s no sense of purpose to this message, so it’s a bit confusing.

Good Example

Let’s see how we could change this email to make it clear.

Hi John,

I wanted to write you a quick note about Daniel Kedar, who’s working in your department. In recent weeks, he’s helped the IT department through several pressing deadlines on his own time.

We’ve got a tough upgrade project due to run over the next three months, and his knowledge and skills would prove invaluable. Could we please have his help with this work?

I’d appreciate speaking with you about this. When is it best to call you to discuss this further?

Best wishes,

Skip

This second message is much clearer, because the reader has the information he needs to take action.

 

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