Communicating Internationally – Tips and Tricks

In the incredibly connected modern world, communicating with people in other countries is common. Whether for work or because of a shared interest, people are able to connect on a plethora of platforms regardless of the physical distance. Despite the ease of immediate communication, actually reaching understanding with international acquaintances presents its own challenges. The following tips and tricks will help you to communicate more clearly and effectively with people in other countries.

Tip #1: Remember the Time Difference
If you’re lucky, the person you’re choosing to communicate with across international borders is in the same time zone as you are. That is, if it’s 10 a.m. for you, it’s 10 a.m. for them. However, the wider your international circle becomes, the less likely that scenario is! If people live in other time zones, it’s crucial to remember the time difference for a few reasons.

First, remembering the time difference is important for real-time interactions. Is now actually a good time to call that person, or will they be asleep or out of touch? Waking someone up, or interrupting a time when they already have plans, is a sure path to frustration.

Second, remembering the time difference is important for expectations of when things can be communicated or done. If you want this person to respond on the same day, are they actually able to do that, or are you aiming for a time window they’ve already passed? If it’s noon for you but evening for them, it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll get back to you about a work project same-day!

Third, remembering the time difference is important for making plans. Not only do you need to consider the typical time difference, you also need to take Daylight Saving Time into account. Not all countries and not all areas of countries use Daylight Saving Time, so pre-planned arrangements can still go awry if you don’t confirm the time you’re actually both experiencing.

Tip #2: Take Widespread Cultural Events into Account
It’s easy to assume one’s home culture is the norm, especially since one is immersed in it all the time! Things like holidays, typical hours, and basic manners seem not even worth mentioning. However, once you broaden your interactions to be international, “typical” can be anything but!

First, different cultures have different “typical” hours. Europeans tend to eat later in the day than Americans, often dining around 8 p.m. and socializing into the late night hours. In contrast, Americans eat dinner around 6 p.m.; socializing often ends by 10 p.m. These are just two examples on two different continents—things this seemingly basic vary widely not only region to region, but country to country.

Second, pay attention to different standard holidays celebrated in different places. In China the holidays fall according to the lunar calendar, and thus vary from year to year by the Western calendar. A Canadian expecting to talk to someone in China the first week of October, when nothing significant is happening in Canada, would mean a real problem. Most Chinese people try to go home for the October holiday for three days to a week around that time, and focus on family and nearby friends!

Third, check your expectations about what your relationship with this person means. People in different cultures assume different levels of closeness based on what they share with another person about their life and experiences. What might be a deep, confiding exchange for a Russian might appear to be only casual small talk to an American! Moreover, different topics are acceptable and taboo in different countries. In Belgium, asking someone’s salary directly would have you immediately labeled rude and invasive in their privacy, where it is a typical icebreaker question in China.

Once you have an international connection, it will benefit you a lot to do some basic cultural research to find out what’s standard!

Tip #3: Don’t Use Abbreviations
Abbreviations are meant to save time and are frequently and casually used by Americans in spoken and written communication alike. However, for non-native English speakers abbreviations may be different or may not be used, leading to confusion and miscommunication. Moreover, even between countries where English is the first language the same abbreviation may stand for different things in the cultural context! Unless you’ve explicitly established what an abbreviation means with each person, avoid using abbreviations in written and spoken exchanges.

Tip #4: Use a Different Date Format
Time passes at the same speed for all of us, but despite that simple fact, how people record time varies from place to place. Instead of using American (MM-DD-YYYY) or European (DD-MM-YYYY) styles for writing dates, use the format YYYY-MM-DD (2017-06-22) or day month date (Monday, May 22) to ensure everyone is on the same page. This is also helpful because most computers will sort the YYYY-MM-DD in an easily-searchable chronological way. Be sure to double-check dates anytime someone uses the MM-DD or DD-MM format, as this can be easily misunderstood internationally.

Tip #5: Be Concise and Organized
Treating one another as intelligent, capable human beings is an absolute must for relationships. No one likes being talked down to! However, using unclear, long, rambling, or pointless sentences, or haphazardly saying whatever comes to mind with no system of organization and no central point will only lead to frustration. Use short sentences and bullet-point lists; for those whose first language isn’t English, having things broken into discrete parts will aid comprehension. For emails or text chats that must be replied to in writing, putting items in a numbered list will allow both you and the person replying to you to see whether all items have been addressed. Organization will make it easier to reference what you talked about in the past—and it will be easier to remember, too!

Tip #6: Don’t Take Things for Granted: It’s Better to Ask!
If you haven’t been able to find a conclusive answer through research, or if you run across something odd or unexpected in your international communication, don’t hesitate! Ask for clarification. It’s always better to understand something in the moment over letting it snowball out of control, and it may help you recognize where you both need to work harder in meeting each other in the middle. International connections can be fascinating, fun, fruitful, and fantastic, and the better your communication, the more you will enjoy the experience!

Writing Excellent Business Emails – Part 3 of 3 – Tips and Tricks

Writing excellent business emails will help you to remain more organized and focused in your work. When you have all your information straight, it’s easy to prevent misunderstandings and stay on top of business dealings so that things keep working smoothly. This part, part three, provides ten useful tips and tricks to make your emails better, and save you time in future exchanges.

Avoid abbreviations unless absolutely necessary. They can be confusing and are easy to write incorrectly, which won’t be caught by a spell-checker (which don’t usually check all-caps words).

Attachments are often a key part of business emails. To save time and frustration, when you make an attachment, write in the email that you did it and what the name and file extension of the attachment are to avoid confusion. Be sure to INCLUDE file type extensions! Some extensions don’t work on older or newer systems, and this will allow the recipient to let you know they need a different format. For example: “I have attached the latest presentation, Friday Presentation (fridaypresentation06.ppt). Please take a look and let me know if anything needs to be changed.”

Breaking up Paragraphs
Keep things concise. Add paragraph breaks at topic changes or after a you finish an idea to keep things clear. Five or six short paragraphs is preferable to one large one!

Emails Are Not Texts
Do NOT treat email as texting! You MUST have openings and closings! Don’t pepper people with brief, disorganized emails. Instead, collect all the information you have and what you need from the other person, and send a proper email if you need information. Otherwise, interoffice messaging programs, a phone call, or good old-fashioned in-person interaction is a better choice.

Keeping Emails
Keep past emails until an exchange is fully complete. When referring to past emails, copy-paste relevant info as necessary: “In your email on June 1, you said, ‘We need 36 units by Friday June 9’, and we sent those units on June 3. Please refer to attached shipping receipt (USPS receipt 20170603-01.pdf) for more information.”

Be explicit and complete when giving dates, times, and numbers. Use a.m. and p.m. (especially important for international connections!) and write dates and days out completely (June 2, versus 06/07, which could be significantly confusing due to international standards) to ensure accurate communication.

Reply Versus Reply All
“Reply” should be used to respond to only the sender; “Reply All” should be used sparingly, and only when all parties, including CC’ed parties, need to see the response. It is better to hit “Reply” and add individuals to the CC field than it is to send emails to uninterested parties, or risk giving out sensitive information in search of saving a few seconds. Make “Reply” your default.

Respond Completely
When you are writing a response to an email, make sure you address all points brought up in the original email. Do this in the order they were given in the other email unless you have a compelling reason to reorder them.

Respond to Email with Email
If you get an email, make sure you reply by email! Unless the person explicitly asks you to call or text in reply, don’t! Business communication can get murky when multiple formats are used. To keep all information easily accessible and organized, respond in the format in which you were approached.

Be Professional
Above all, consider the kind of email YOU would like to receive. Does your email meet your associate’s needs? Are all questions answered, all numbers accurate, and the email sent in a timely way? Take time to reread for content and for the sake of proofreading—don’t send the email off-the-cuff! For important emails that are not urgent, write the email and save it as a draft, returning to read it half a day or a full day later before sending it. Seeing it with fresh eyes can make all the difference.

By sending excellent emails you will get better results for your business dealings and gain the respect of those you connect with for business. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to comment below, and share your tips and tricks for sending better business emails.

Part One: Getting Started
Part Two: The Body

Writing Excellent Business Emails – Part 2 of 3 – The Body

Writing excellent business emails is a necessary skill for anyone who wants to make a good professional impression. People judge your intelligence and competence by how you write. This three-part series will give you the information you need to hone your skill in writing business emails. This part, part two, deals with structuring a business email; necessary information in business emails; and sample business emails for reference.

The exact form of the body of a business email is as varied as the contents of the emails themselves. However, there are overarching rules that will help you to make a good impression and organize your information efficiently. Remember the Three C’s: your email should be current, complete, and concise. Keep those qualities in mind as you write!

Email structure
Emails are made up of the following parts:

  • A greeting
  • A first sentence to soften the email. Usually this is friendly, not a question, and requires no response. It can be omitted, but provides a nice warmth to the email.
  • The focus of the email: start by saying why you’re writing the email. Are you sending something for them to look over, asking for information, arranging a meeting, or anything else? Say it right away!
  • Relevant background information: if there is anything they need to know to make a decision, such as dates, locations, or numbers, give that immediately after stating the purpose of the email, so they have all the information they need from you to respond well.
  • End with a request for action, or let them know no action is needed. Give a time frame if the required response is time-sensitive.

Don’t use indents when writing an email. Instead, use paragraph breaks with a blank line in between—many email programs do this for you automatically.

Here are some sample emails to get you started. (Please note: all persons and companies listed are fictional, and any resemblance to anyone, living or deceased, is pure coincidence. Examples are provided for sample purposes only.)

Sample Email #1:

Sample Email #2:

Sample Email #3:

Remember to keep your emails current, concise, and complete! You’re well on your way to writing excellent business emails. Check back on Friday for the third and final part of this series, which will give canny hints and useful tips for making your emails the best version they can be.

Part One: Getting Started
Part Three: Tips and Tricks

Writing Excellent Business Emails – Part 1 of 3 – Getting Started

Whether you’ve been working for decades or are just entering the workforce, writing excellent business emails will allow you to communicate clearly, efficiently, and professionally. This three-part series will give you the information you need to hone your skill in writing business emails. This part, part one, deals with the three C’s of writing business emails; the different parts of sending an email; titling your email; greetings; closings; and professional signatures.

The Three C’s
When you are writing business emails, remember the Three C’s: every email you write should be current, complete, and concise.

Current: Send business emails when you need to, without waiting! If you receive an email, do your best to reply within 24 hours, even if you can’t give all the information. If you need more time to collect information or take action, send a brief email to acknowledge receipt of the other’s email and give an estimate of when you’ll be able to respond to it in full.

Complete: Give all the information that is needed in the email, paying close attention to dates, times, numbers, names, email addresses, and actionable items. If the person can’t respond or react because they don’t understand what you need or know your time frame, then you’ve lost time and communication cred.

Concise: Keep your email brief and to the point. Avoid softening phrases such as “I think”, “I feel”, “I hope to”, and other qualifying statements, and instead use “I will”, “I can,” and concrete time frames. Break up paragraphs into bullet point lists for large amounts of data. Keep your focus on the point of the email: what is the information you need to communicate with this email?

Filling the Fields
When you are writing a new email, but before you get to the meat of the message, you need to consider the fields above the place to write the body of the email: namely, the “To”, “CC”, and “BCC” fields. Email auto-dates itself, so you’re good to go.

  • The “To” field should have the email address of the main person to get the email; there should not be more than a few email addresses in this field!
  • The “CC” field is used to copy people on the email, so that they see it, but it clear that it is not to them directly. This is used when the email address of the person should be seen by the others, for example in an introduction or a group project.
  • The “BCC” field is used to show other people the email without the people in the “To” and “CC” fields seeing it. This is useful for sending important information for backup, or in sending an email to a large group of people who should not see each other’s emails. In that case, the “To” can be the same as the “From”, and all other recipients’ addresses should be in the “BCC” field.

Titling the Email
When choosing a title or subject for your email, keep it short and to the point. It should contain important keywords and numbers, but only the absolutely necessary ones. It should only be a few words long, but don’t be vague!

Choosing a professional greeting is important. When appropriate and with new contacts always use surnames and titles rather than given names; wait for permission or seeing that the other person signs their emails with their given name before addressing them in that way. Don’t ever address someone by their title and their first name, and always err on the side of formality when you make new contact with people.

  • Do not use: Good morning/afternoon/evening, Hey, Heya, Hiya, To whom it may concern, [no greeting]
  • Less formal: Greetings, Hello, Hi
  • Very formal: Dear Sir/Madam

Closings give a final feeling after the entire email is done. Several good choices for respectful and businesslike closings include: Best, Best wishes, Regards, Sincerely, Talk to you soon, and Thank you.

Email Signatures
Automatic email signatures can play two roles; they can save time and give a consistent closing to every email, and they can provide useful contact information to recipients. Email signatures can be set up in the email program settings; be aware that they will be attached to every email, so only include what would be appropriate for everyone to see. An email signature often includes some combination of the following: the writer’s name; a cell phone number; an email address; a job title; a website address; a fax number; and sometimes a mailing address.

The recipients, title, opening, closing, and professional signature are all sorted for your excellent business email. Come back on Monday for part two of this series, which will deal with email structure and provide example emails.

Part Two: The Body
Part Three: Tips and Tricks

Friday Media Review: Roses and Rot

I must admit that I avoided reading Kat Howard’s debut novel at first because I had one preconception from the title: I thought that it would be about zombies. Feeling as I do that zombies have been very overdone in recent years, and that they tend to focus on gore and angst more than solid plotlines, I waited to dig into this book until a free afternoon led me to finally pick it up.

I could not have been more wrong.

Roses and Rot isn’t a zombie story, it’s a fairy story. In the old, old tradition of fairy stories, there is more to the world than meets the eye, and getting your heart’s desire just might cost you your heart, unless you’re canny, careful, and keep your eyes wide open.

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

It’s fitting that the book is dedicated to the author’s sister; the core relationship in the book is that of the protagonist Imogen’s relationship with her sister Marin. Both sisters are creatively gifted, one as a writer and one as a dancer, and have spent years honing their skills. Early on you discover that both have been invited to an artist’s collective to develop their skills and bring forth a significant work to launch their careers in earnest. Both are fully engaged in their passion, and both find that the collective stretches them in ways they didn’t expect. Their experiences are both parallel and divergent, and the ending is a satisfying if strange conclusion.

Howard doesn’t shy from dealing with heavier themes in her book: emotional and physical abuse, betrayal, love, coming from different worlds, the danger and calling of having a true gift in an art, the arduousness of dead serious competition, death, dysfunctional families, and what it means to be successful are all explored through the characters’ experiences in this work. Emotions don’t take short shrift, either: the relationships between characters and their decisions play out with honest and believable consequences, and a more sinister cost linked with being able to evoke that emotion in others is a dark thread that winds throughout the book.

Weighing in at 307 pages, Roses and Rot is a satisfying but not too hefty size

Howard’s language is vivd and descriptive, her dialogue believable and engaging, her characters’ interactions authentic and modern. Certain flavors of the book evoke Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market“, and some of Grimm’s more grim fairytales where the consequences are real and vital. Mothers can be just as bad as stepmothers, and getting the prince’s love is no guarantee that you’ll survive to the end; even if you do, will you still be yourself?

Roses and Rot provides an interesting glimpse into a different kind of fairyland than the usual fare, and is an engaging and fast-paced novel that will appeal to fantasy and fairy tale fans alike.

Back cover of Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

Friday Media Review: The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts

The Legend of ZeldaTM: Art & Artifacts, published by Dark Horse Books, is a gorgeous, visually- and tactilely-satisfying treat for any fan of the Legend of ZeldaTM series. With over 2000 delicious illustrations spanning 427 pages, Dark Horse has outdone themselves in the printing quality of this volume.

This massive book is in full color, and contains an incredible variety of art and illustrations spanning 31 years of the franchise. Large and weighty with a gold-embossed cover, outside and in, this book satisfies. When one touches the inner pages, one can feel where the ink begins and ends, with different textures to different parts of the image. Images taken from game booklets for various games (Ocarina of Time, for example) are blown up larger for greater appreciation of the line and color.

A detailed view of the items one can acquire and use in Skyward Sword.

Ardent fans and art enthusiasts alike will appreciate the levels of attention and detail provided on each page. The incredible variety of art includes concept art, game manual art, in-game art including pixel sprites and unused designs, with thousands of images in the book. A spiritual successor to Hyrule Historia, it manages to be almost entirely different.

Beautiful illustrations from Wind Waker.

Art & Artifacts is a fantastic reference for anyone who wants to make costumes, arts, and crafts based on The Legend of ZeldaTM universe. The book is easy to open anywhere and browse, or one can read through it in its entirety to get an overview of the entire history of the series. It’s clear that the art seen throughout the timeline of this series’ history and included in this volume shaped the feel of the games overall. For several illustrations artists were asked to create pieces without the game being finalized yet, blending their own creativity with elements that were fixed. This method creates a fluid and exciting hook to capture one’s imagination while offering the potential for the game to grow and change in unexpected ways.

The Master Sword is an iconic item that appears throughout the series.

For readers who not only enjoy art but are curious about the history of The Legend of ZeldaTM series, there’s a gem at the end that isn’t art at all—an interview with four influential creators who designed both the overall feel of and made the specific art for the games. These four men are Yusuke Nakano, Yoshiki Haruhana, Satoru Takizawa, and Takumi Wada.

Yusuke Nakano’s bio shows him holding his favorite piece of art from the Zelda series.

There are few things to criticize about this work, which is exceedingly detailed and well-designed. An observation is that the fan-acknowledged “terrible” Zelda games that do not fit in canon (the Philips CD-i games) are absent. However, these games wouldn’t belong here anyway, since this is a celebration of the best and most iconic of The Legend of ZeldaTM art and stories. The only real disappointment was when the sole woman whose work was mentioned in the interview wasn’t named:

Interviewer: “So in the opening of Phantom Hourglass there is a picture play [page 86]. Who worked on that?”
Nakano: “A woman on my staff did it.”

This is stilted information compared to the direct attributions and clear crediting of other artists who were known to be involved in the art of Zelda! Hopefully in future editions the editor will see fit to add a footnote giving credit to this talented artist whose work prompted two questions from the interviewer.

This uncredited artist’s work is remarkable.

Overall, The Legend of ZeldaTM: Art & Artifacts is a wonderful addition to any library. If you have enjoyed one game or all, are new to the series with Breath of the Wild, or are a diehard fan since the first game came out on the NES, you will enjoy this gorgeous journey through The Legend of ZeldaTM‘s history and feel joyful anticipation for games yet to come.

Breath of the Wild unfoldable page spread. If you want to see what it looks like, you can purchase Art & Artifacts!

Friday Media Review: Enough Space for Everyone Else

Science fiction as a genre pushes the boundaries of human expectations and experience. Since the beginning, authors have focused on telling new stories beyond the scope of Earth, exploring shocking sights and scary monsters. But although big foes and vast space make for attention-grabbing scenes, small moments and connection make us people. How scary are the monsters really, when you get to know them?

Enough Space for Everyone Else cover art

Enough Space for Everyone Else is an anthology published by Bedside Press in 2017. It includes stories from 31 creators that explore the nooks and crannies of life, passing on the large-scale, sweeping focus of much of scifi and instead zeroing in on smaller relatable moments. Lee Black, an editor of the anthology, said in the introduction that he was inspired to “make a book where each piece was distinct from the next not only textually but visually, each change of writer and artist creating new moods, tones, [and] aesthetics”. This anthology does that admirably, with wildly differing styles and voices adding charm and roundedness to the book. The collection is mostly comics but contains a few text-only stories, giving the art breathing room.

Enough Space for Everyone Else has a great deal of visual contast in the art styles

This collection of works really does afford room for stories beyond anthologies’ normal scope. Many of the creators are previously unpublished, and their focus and rhythms are unlike the larger publishing houses’ standard structures. Several stories stand out, like the alien artist who creates constellations for smaller beings to admire (Misaligned by Mari Costa); a day for a worker on a space station when everything just plain goes wrong for our hapless everyman (Fourth Shift by JD Laclede); and a wistful glimpse of longing for home when home is inaccessible (Habitus by Ver). There are several other memorable stories too, but it’s no good to spoil them for potential readers who could discover them for themselves.

Enough Space for Everyone Else also includes creator bios, which provide an interesting and informative glimpse of the people behind the stories

If you’re interested in acquiring a copy for yourself, you can find more information about this initially-Kickstarted book from the Bedside Press website. With a price tag under $20 USD for a satisfyingly-large black-and-white comic and writing anthology that clocks in at over 217 pages of content, you’re getting your money’s worth. Each story feels fresh in contrast to those around it, all of them pieces in a mosaic that feels united but unique when one focuses in on the details. Some stories are much shorter than one would expect, more character explorations or vignettes, leaving the reader room to imagine what would happen after the last panel or the last sentence closes the story. This anthology returns to the roots of science fiction: exploring space, and finding space where everyone belongs.

Friday Media Review: Goldenhand

Goldenhand is the fifth novel-length work in the Abhorsen series (known outside of North America as the Old Kingdom series) by novelist Garth Nix. Old readers picking up this next installment in the series will find elements both familiar and new. As always, reading previous works enriches the reader’s experience of Goldenhand, but that previous exposure to the world and story isn’t necessary for enjoyment and understanding. If you’ve read the prequel Clariel, in this instance, you’ll have an “Aha!” moment in Goldenhand.

From HarperCollins' website:

Goldenhand official cover art from the HarperCollins website

Garth Nix scaffolds the magic and rules of the Old Kingdom world well; each time something new is encountered, it is explained, and often in the context of comparing and contrasting with other elements in the world, allowing for a richer perspective both in and out of universe. This strategy is never more and simultaneously less true than of the Abhorsen family and lineage, which are both expanded upon and used to raise more questions each time they reappear in the books.

Nix is talented at the balancing act of showing you enough to get you hooked on the stakes of the world and the foibles of the characters, while leaving enough in question to keep you hungry for more. The progression of the story seems to be a curious nesting dolls situation: every time you think you’ve gotten to the last earth-shattering fact, another one is revealed. Goldenhand is enriched by expanding and exploring the powers and stories of others beyond the Abhorsen bloodline, looking at key bloodlines that bracket the powers and rules of the world.

The main character of Goldenhand returning for more time in the spotlight is Lirael. Past novels set her up as the Abhorsen-in-Training, a necromancer whose role is not to raise the dead, but lay them to rest. However, her character continues to grow, highlighting tensions between what is expected, what is possible, and what is needed to keep the world whole. Stakes in the Old Kingdom can rank from the relatively minor loss of money or time, to risking life and limb, to the actual danger of the universe as it is known coming to an end. Nix balances the tension between all of them masterfully, making nothing feel cheap or senseless, but connected to character.

In this novel other deeply engaging characters are introduced, broadening the experience beyond Lirael’s point of view and growth arc. Nix is talented in writing multiple characters with different (even conflicting!) goals and interests, providing many relatable people. He doesn’t have just one “type” that he returns to again and again; instead, he explores a wide and colorful variety of people and personality types from all different backgrounds, and with differing dispositions and gifts. He dwells with respect on characters who are afraid, those who aren’t, those who want to fight, those who don’t, and characters a reader might both admire and revile.

The Old Kingdom is a high-stakes world where death happens but isn’t the final end, leaving surprising avenues for old faces to return and be newly relevant. A character that first appeared in Sabriel, Chlorr of the Mask, makes a significant appearance; the generational weight of story pulls forward as Lirael and Nicholas Sayre, characters young enough to be Sabriel’s children, play a significant role. The story weaves in and out, not following just a single point of view, but allowing the reader to see what’s happening with different characters in different places and building tension to the climax of the story.

Goldenhand is a satisfying adventure that explores new areas of Nix’s world while drawing on the old in a coherent way. It’s definitely worth the read if you don’t mind some existential terror and a fair amount of squishy-and-toothy-dead-things gore. Undoubtedly readers hope further books in the series will be forthcoming, though they’ve no shortage of other works by him to choose from; if you’ve finished the other major novels (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen, and Clariel), take a look at Nix’s shorter works in the same world, “To Hold the Bridge” and “The Creature in the Case”. Nix’s Old Kingdom world is not for the faint of heart, but it delivers a satisfying, balanced story with real stakes and interesting reveals that give Goldenhand a solid place in the series. Definitely take a look!

Ten Words to Delete from Your Spell-check

Typos happen to all of us. Even the msot experience copyeditor misess one from time to tiem. But in all seriousness, typos are a significant issue in our electronics-oriented life. In a world where text messaging, blogging, posting online, email, and a host of other written communications shape how people perceive us, using exactly the word you mean to use can be critical.

The worst kind of typos are those that the spell-check does not catch, because the typo itself is a word. A quick reread of what you plan to show someone else can often catch these, but there are certain words which your brain might skip right over because it looks close enough. Dealing with the fallout of that is no fun. In that vein, here are ten words that I recommend completely removing from your computer’s dictionary. That way, if it tells you you used it when you meant to, there’s no issue, but if you didn’t plan to write it, it can save you a world of embarrassment. Warning: some of these words are blatantly rude or profane. That’s why I recommend removing them, so that you only use them when you really mean to!

All of the words below are recognized by Microsoft Word. For information on how to remove a word from Microsoft Word’s dictionary, see Microsoft’s support page, which, comically, has an error like those mentioned in this article: customer instead of custom. It happens to us all!

Remove these ten words:

It’s probable that you plan to write casually here: “She casually opened her purse.” Since both words are adverbs, even the grammar check won’t help you on this one.

Yikes. This one is just bad. I couldn’t think of a single convoluted business situation in which you might use this word, and plenty of times in which you are attempting to write count and instead type an epithet. If you remove any word from your dictionary, remove this one!

Verbs end up sneaking under the spelling radar with depressing frequency. Saying to someone “He dies” instead of “he does” could certainly lead to some misunderstandings, particularly if you’re talking about a movie they haven’t seen yet. It’s better to see that squiggly red line than to have to make up for that error.

This is a very common mistake that can happen when you’re writing both from and of. A fro is a great thing, but not in the wrong context!

It’s easy to goof instead of doing good when the d and the f are right next to each other on the keyboard. Save yourself some goofs and remove it.

This is a more rare error, but it’s undeniable that letters next to each other on the keyboard have a tendency to get hit by accident. Telling your friend that your daughter likes oink instead of pink might still lead to her to getting a certain pink present on her birthday, but why leave that to fate? Chop it.

A relatively benign error, writing persona instead of person will still have people wondering if you’re talking about a generic individual or someone with a flamboyant alter ego. Better safe than sorry.

It’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up writing this particular word when you are trying to write shut, shot, or shirt. Keep yourself out of some professional you-know-what and cut it out of your dictionary.

Cutting this particular word is a suggestion, rather than a recommendation. Void and avoid are easily switched, especially if you are trying to write a void versus avoid. It might benefit you to remove one or the other, depending on how often you use each, so you have a heads up when you are writing to pay attention to which you are using.

This is another word that would be easy to insert by accident when you’re attempting to write, well, write. This has happened to the author of this article, and saying to someone about a movie “This makes me want to write” versus “this makes me want to writhe” gives an extremely different impression.

Removing these ten words from your computer’s spell-check may mean that you see that dreaded squiggly red line more frequently than before, but hopefully it will help you to catch errors of meaning or reassure you that you wrote just exactly what you meant to type. Happy writing!

Choosing an Editor with the Skills You Need

Hiring a freelancer can be intimidating. There are so many factors to consider, and many individuals who haven’t done it before, or who have and have had a bad experience, hesitate to sink time, money, and effort into something without guaranteed results. You can improve your experience by choosing an editor with the skills you need to ensure that your project is done in an excellent and timely way.

The job of any editor is to help you communicate your message or information to your audience in the most effective, concise, accurate, and appealing way possible. They should not aim to make you feel bad; they’re there to assist you. Since you are hiring someone freelance, you have the final say in what gets included—but bear in mind that you are paying this person for their expertise and opinion, so it is almost always worth taking their advice!

It’s important to choose an editor that has experience and knowledge that complement your own, and are appropriate for your project. Picking the cheapest—or the most expensive—option isn’t always the best!

To find the right editor, look at their information, and ask the following questions:

  • What is their background?
  • What is their education?
  • What is their work experience?
  • What additional skills do they bring to the table?
  • What are their abilities and interests that might enhance their work on this project?

The more specialized the knowledge and field, the more important the answers to these questions are. Bear in mind that though someone may not have professional experience in one area, if they are passionate about it, they may bring more of value to the table than a professional that is indifferent!

A good example of a specialized editor is a technical editor. Technical editors do specialized work not only in refining the English of the projects they edit, but also in having the experience and knowledge to ask, “Is this what you really meant?” or “This feels off, can you check it?” Some specialized editors will even check formulas, solve equations, or do calculations, which are incredibly useful, valuable skills.

I have a memory from one of my college calculus classes. At the back of the textbook all the answers to the odd-numbered problems were listed so that students could check and see if their comprehension and problem-solving skills were correct. On the first day of class, right after reading through the syllabus, the professor had us turn to those pages. He began listing problem solution after problem solution with the wrong answer, telling us to write the correct answers in our books so that when we got to that point in the course we wouldn’t be devastated if we did the problem and got it “wrong” when it was actually right!

I remember thinking that it was hard to have confidence in a book like that, no matter how well-written the explanations were throughout, since it was rife with errors and issues. That is one situation where having an excellent editor hired to check those solutions would have made a significant difference to the students’ experience of the course.

Another example of factual error is from the autobiographical work of Richard Feynman, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! When he was giving a verbal description of his  “wobbling plate” experiment, he accidentally swapped the numbers for the plate’s rotation and the frequency of the “wobble.” (You can see this yourself at Wolfram Demonstrations Project’s Feynman’s Wobbling Plate interactive demonstration!) Once the work was in print, the editor was able to catch and point out the error, preventing misconceptions and confusion. If one of the most brilliant minds of the last century could make a mistake like that, anyone could!

It’s very simple to make errors when numbers, diagrams, and even simple percentages are involved. For example, let’s say that an author writes, “We made 125% of our budget on this particular product!” That would be the following:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Here, making 125% of budget means that they made 100% of the budget plus 25% profit: easy to visualize if you split the budget into four pieces and see the extra 25% makes a fifth piece.

If an inexperienced or not-numbers-attentive editor that dislikes having numbers over 100% decides to change the wording, they might rephrase that statement as “Our budget was only three-quarters of our profit!”, thinking that 25% is one-quarter of 100%. However, this would actually be factually incorrect, giving the reader this impression:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Here, having the budget be three-quarters of the profit would mean they made 100% of the budget plus 33% profit: easy to visualize if you split the budget into three pieces and see the extra 33% makes a fourth piece.

There is a significant difference between a 25% profit and a 33% profit! This could lead to more than a little irritation and confusion on your customers’ or investors’ part when they don’t get what they expect.

It is crucial to find an editor that suits your needs, whatever those are. Where does that leave you, as a person with a project or a business document that you want edited clearly and well? You have to take the time to check the editor’s experience and credentials, including their interests and skills. When in doubt, ask. Talk to the editor directly. Ask them about their experience in the area and their ability to do the work, as well as if they do fact and formula checking. The editor will still likely note in their contract that all final facts and data are the responsibility of the author, regardless of whether they check them or not. The extra fact- and formula-checking will cost more and add more time to your project, so plan for this!

Finding an editor that suits your project’s needs, whether personal or business, can be the start of a long and fruitful professional relationship where you are able to best express yourself to your customers, clients, and audience. Invest the time in finding the right one, and you will be able to rest assured that the editor will help you to meet your goals in the most significant way possible.