Tag Archive | letter

Sincerely yours: Origins and Uses of 8 Common Sign-Offs

Regards,

regardsThe word regard comes to us from the Old French regarder meaning “to look at.” This definition is still evident in its senses today, which range from “to look upon or think of with a particular feeling” to “respect, esteem, or deference.” When used as a valediction, regards is intended to indicate sentiments of esteem or affection, and often follows kind, warm, or best. Some consider variations such as warm regards ideal for conveying a balanced tone of friendly professionalism.

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How to say “No”

If you are like many people, you find it difficult to say no, especially when you need to commit words to paper or the screen. Some people find the task so challenging that they avoid responding. In a survey I conducted of 686 people (many were readers of this newsletter), I found that 22 percent occasionally avoid responding; 3 percent frequently avoid responding rather than say no.

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Better Writing at Work: Write Mighty Thank-Yous

In a survey on business writing and relationships, 81 percent of respondents said that a thank-you note they received had a definite positive influence on their decision to do business with a company or an individual again. 

Beyond the professional rewards of thank-yous, sending thank-yous makes everyone smile: you, the writer, for having expressed your gratitude, and the recipient for being remembered and appreciated. 

Here are reminders to help you write mighty thank-yous that bring smiles to all: 

1. Recognize opportunities to say thank you. You have a chance to say thank you anytime someone has:

  • Delivered particularly good service.
  • Gone beyond the job requirements for you.

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12 Letters That Didn’t Make it to the Alphabet

You know the alphabet. It’s one of the first things you’re taught in school. But did you know that they’re not teaching you all of the alphabet? There are quite a few letters we tossed aside as our language grew, and you probably never even knew they existed.

 

1. Thorn

Have you ever seen a place that calls itself “ye olde whatever”? As it happens, that’s not a “y”, or, at least, it wasn’t supposed to be. Originally, it was an entirely different letter called thorn, which derived from the Old English runic alphabet, Futhark.

Thorn, which was pronounced exactly like the “th” in its name, is actually still around today in Icelandic. We replaced it with “th” over time—thorn fell out of use because Gothic-style scripting made the letters y and thorn look practically identical. And, since French printing presses didn’t have thorn anyway, it just became common to replace it with a y. Hence naming things like, “Ye Olde Magazine of Interesting Facts” (just as an example, of course).

2. Wynn

Another holdover from the Futhark runic alphabet, wynn was adapted to the Latin alphabet because it didn’t have a letter that quite fit the “w” sound that was common in English. You could stick two u’s (technically v’s, since Latin didn’t have u either) together, like in equus, but that wasn’t exactly right.

Over time, though, the idea of sticking two u’s together actually became quite popular, enough so that they literally became stuck together and became the letter W (which, you’ll notice, is actually two V’s).

3. Yogh

Yogh stood for a sort of throaty noise that was common in Middle English words that sounded like the “ch” in “Bach” or Scottish “loch.”

French scholars weren’t fans of our weird non-Latin letters and started replacing all instances of yogh with “gh” in their texts. When the throaty sound turned into “f” in Modern English, the “gh”s were left behind.”

4. Ash

You’re probably familiar with this guy from old-fashioned Greek or Roman style text, especially the kind found in churches. It’s even still used stylistically in words today, like æther and æon.

What you may not know, however, is that at one time the ae grapheme (as it’s now known) was an honorary English letter back in the days of Old English. It still had the same pronunciation and everything, it was just considered to be part of the alphabet and called “æsc” or “ash” after the ash Futhark rune, for which it was used as a substitute when transcribing into Latin letters.

5. Eth

Eth is kind of like the little brother to thorn. Originating from Irish, it was meant to represent a slightly different pronunciation of the “th” sound, more like that in “thought” or “thing” as opposed to the one found in “this” or “them.” (The first is the voiceless dental fricative, the second is the voiced dental fricative).

Note that, depending on your regional accent, there may not be much of a difference (or any at all) in the two pronunciations anyway, but that’s Modern English. Back in the old days, the difference was much more distinct. As such, you’d often see texts with both eth and thorn depending on the required pronunciation. Before too long, however, people just began using thorn for both (and later “th”) and so eth slowly became unnecessary.

6. Ampersand

Today we just use it for stylistic purposes (and when we’ve run out of space in a text message or tweet), but the ampersand has had a long and storied history in English, and was actually frequently included as a 27th letter of the alphabet as recently as the 19th century.

In fact, it’s because of its placement in the alphabet that it gets its name. Originally, the character was simply called “and” or sometimes “et” (from the Latin word for and, which the ampersand is usually stylistically meant to resemble). However, when teaching children the alphabet, the & was often placed at the end, after Z, and recited as “and per se and,” meaning “and in and of itself” or “and standing on its own.”

So you’d have “w, x, y, z, and, per se, and.” Over time, the last bit morphed into “ampersand,” and it stuck even after we quit teaching it as part of the alphabet.

7. Insular G

This letter (referred to as “insular G” or “Irish G” because it didn’t have a fancy, official name) is sort of the grandfather of the Middle English version of yogh. Originally an Irish letter, it was used for the previously mentioned zhyah/jhah pronunciation that was later taken up by yogh, though for a time both were used.

It also stood alongside the modern G (or Carolingian G) for many centuries, as they represented separate sounds. The Carolingian G was used for hard G sounds, like growth or good, yogh was used for “ogh” sounds, like cough or tough, and insular g was used for words like measure or vision.

As Old English transformed into Middle English, insular G was combined with yogh and, as mentioned earlier, was slowly replaced with the now-standard “gh” by scribes, at which point insular G/yogh were no longer needed and the Carolingian G stood alone (though the insular G is still used in modern Irish).

8. “That”

Much like the way we have a symbol/letter for “and,” we also once had a similar situation with “that,” which was a letter thorn with a stroke at the top. It was originally just a shorthand, an amalgamation of thorn and T (so more like “tht”), but it eventually caught on and got somewhat popular in its own right (even outliving thorn itself), especially with religious institutions. There’s an excellent chance you can find this symbol somewhere around any given church to this day.

9. Ethel

Similar to Æ/ash/æsc above, the digraph for OE was once considered to be a letter as well, called ethel. It wasn’t named after someone’s dear, sweet grandmother, but the Furthark rune Odal, as œ was its equivalent in transcribing.

It was traditionally used in Latin loan words with a long e sound, such as subpœna or fœtus. Even federal was once spelled with an ethel. (Fœderal.) These days, we’ve just replaced it with a simple e.

10. Tironian “Ond”

Long before there were stenographers, a Roman by the name of Marcus Tullius Tiro (who was basically Roman writer Cicero’s P.A.) invented a shorthand system called Tironian notes. It was a fairly simple system that was easily expanded, so it remained in use by scribes for centuries after Tiro’s death.

One of the most useful symbols (and an ancestor to the ampersand) was the “et” symbol above—a simple way of tossing in an “and.” (And yes, it was sometimes drawn in a way that’s now a popular stylistic way of drawing the number 7.) When used by English scribes, it became known as “ond,” and they did something very clever with it. If they wanted to say “bond,” they’d write a B and directly follow it with a Tironian ond. For a modern equivalent, it’d be like if you wanted to say your oatmeal didn’t have much flavor and you wrote that it was “bl&.”

The trend grew popular beyond scribes practicing shorthand and it became common to see it on official documents and signage, but since it realistically had a pretty limited usage and could occasionally be confusing, it eventually faded away.

11. Long S

You may have seen this in old books or other documents, like the title page from Paradise Lost above. Sometimes the letter s will be replaced by a character that looks a bit like an f. This is what’s known as a “long s,” which was an early form of a lowercase s. And yet the modern lowercase s (then referred to as the “short s”) was still used according to a complicated set of rules (but most usually seen at the end of a word), which led to many words (especially plurals) using both. For example, ?uper?titous is how the word superstitious would have been printed.

It was purely a stylistic lettering, and didn’t change the pronunciation at all. It was also kind of silly and weird, since no other letters behaved that way, so around the beginning of the 19th century, the practice was largely abandoned and the modern lowercase s became king.

12. Eng

For this particular letter, we can actually point to its exact origin. It was invented by a scribe named Alexander Gill the Elder in the year 1619 and meant to represent a velar nasal, which is found at the end of words like king, ring, thing, etc.

Gill intended for the letter to take the place of ng entirely (thus bringing would become bri?i?), and while it did get used by some scribes and printers, it never really took off—the Carolingian G was pretty well-established at that time and the language was beginning to morph into Modern English, which streamlined the alphabet instead of adding more to it. Eng did manage live on in the International Phonetic Alphabet, however.

 

SOURCE
Image courtesy: http://images.ilovewallpaper.co.uk/

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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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The the impotence of proofreading

Here’s another performance of Taylor Mali, this time on the importance of proofreading your works.

A good laugh and yet some food for thought 🙂

 

Has this ever happened to you?
You work very horde on a paper for English clash
And then get a very glow raid (like a D or even a D=)
and all because you are the word1s liverwurst spoiler.
Proofreading your peppers is a matter of the the utmost impotence.

This is a problem that affects manly, manly students.
I myself was such a bed spiller once upon a term
that my English teacher in my sophomoric year,
Mrs. Myth, said I would never get into a good colleague.
And that1s all I wanted, just to get into a good colleague.
Not just anal community colleague,
because I wouldn1t be happy at anal community colleague.
I needed a place that would offer me intellectual simulation,
I really need to be challenged, challenged dentally.
I know this makes me sound like a stereo,
but I really wanted to go to an ivory legal collegue.
So I needed to improvement
or gone would be my dream of going to Harvard, Jail, or Prison
(in Prison, New Jersey).

So I got myself a spell checker
and figured I was on Sleazy Street.

But there are several missed aches
that a spell chukker can1t can1t catch catch.
For instant, if you accidentally leave a word
your spell exchequer won1t put it in you.
And God for billing purposes only
you should have serial problems with Tori Spelling
your spell Chekhov might replace a word
with one you had absolutely no detention of using.
Because what do you want it to douch?
It only does what you tell it to douche.
You1re the one with your hand on the mouth going clit, clit, clit.
It just goes to show you how embargo
one careless clit of the mouth can be.

Which reminds me of this one time during my Junior Mint.
The teacher read my entire paper on A Sale of Two Titties
out loud to all of my assmates.
I1m not joking, I1m totally cereal.
It was the most humidifying experience of my life,
being laughed at pubically.

So do yourself a flavor and follow these two Pisces of advice:
One: There is no prostitute for careful editing.
And three: When it comes to proofreading,
the red penis your friend.

http://taylormali.com

Cincirily,

I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.

A small part of my job is to edit, proof-read, correct, …

The major part is to ensure all the departments are conveying the right message and keep a common house style for all communications. Yet some of the complacent co-workers insist that this means that we (PR&Communications Unit) are just a rabble of plain mortals whose sole ability in life is to put commas here and there.

Dear fellows:

“It’s easier to teach a poet how to read a balance sheet than it is to teach an accountant how to write.”
– Henry R. Luce (1898-1967)

Here’s one for you, sloppy co-worker. It matters. Got the chip on my shoulder now.  Try me. 😉

Via Harvard Business Review

If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me. If you think a semicolon is a regular colon with an identity crisis, I will not hire you. If you scatter commas into a sentence with all the discrimination of a shotgun, you might make it to the foyer before we politely escort you from the building.

Some might call my approach to grammar extreme, but I prefer Lynne Truss’s more cuddly phraseology: I am a grammar “stickler.” And, like Truss — author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves — I have a “zero tolerance approach” to grammar mistakes that make people look stupid.

Now, Truss and I disagree on what it means to have “zero tolerance.” She thinks that people who mix up their itses “deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave,” while I just think they deserve to be passed over for a job — even if they are otherwise qualified for the position.

Everyone who applies for a position at either of my companies, iFixit or Dozuki, takes a mandatory grammar test. Extenuating circumstances aside (dyslexia, English language learners, etc.), if job hopefuls can’t distinguish between “to” and “too,” their applications go into the bin.

Of course, we write for a living. iFixit.com is the world’s largest online repair manual, and Dozuki helps companies write their own technical documentation, like paperless work instructions and step-by-step user manuals. So, it makes sense that we’ve made a preemptive strike against groan-worthy grammar errors.

But grammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is constantly changing, but that doesn’t make grammar unimportant. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.

Good grammar makes good business sense — and not just when it comes to hiring writers. Writing isn’t in the official job description of most people in our office. Still, we give our grammar test to everybody, including our salespeople, our operations staff, and our programmers.

On the face of it, my zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair. After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right?

Wrong. If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use “it’s,” then that’s not a learning curve I’m comfortable with. So, even in this hyper-competitive market, I will pass on a great programmer who cannot write.

Grammar signifies more than just a person’s ability to remember high school English. I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts.

In the same vein, programmers who pay attention to how they construct written language also tend to pay a lot more attention to how they code. You see, at its core, code is prose. Great programmers are more than just code monkeys; according to Stanford programming legend Donald Knuth they are “essayists who work with traditional aesthetic and literary forms.” The point: programming should be easily understood by real human beings — not just computers.

And just like good writing and good grammar, when it comes to programming, the devil’s in the details. In fact, when it comes to my whole business, details are everything.

I hire people who care about those details. Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important. And I guarantee that even if other companies aren’t issuing grammar tests, they pay attention to sloppy mistakes on résumés. After all, sloppy is as sloppy does.

That’s why I grammar test people who walk in the door looking for a job. Grammar is my litmus test. All applicants say they’re detail-oriented; I just make my employees prove it.

Kyle Wiens

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