Lately, the StoryStudio mailbag has been filling up with questions about our upcoming session of Business Writing Fundamentals. There’s nothing worse than a heavy mailbag, so let’s take on some of the most pressing questions in a very special edition of Dear Jill.
I don’t wrk @ a desk & I don’t have to write ltrs, rprts or evn long emails. My coworkers & I jst txt or tweet wen we nd 2 communic8. Y shld I care bout writing? ~Texting Fiend
Who cares about writing at work? Just about everyone I know. Written communications are even more important in these days of email and LinkedIn and Twitter. Can you tell your story in 140 characters without getting in trouble? Better yet, can you influence your boss/clients/co-workers/volunteers/board members to your way of thinking? If you’re a good writer, you can.
It’s not like writing work emails are the same as writing essays or stories. What can being a better writer even do for me? ~NOT An Aspiring Author
Dear Not Aspiring,
We all write emails at work. Heck, that’s what most of us do all day.
But how many times have you sent an email only to get an email full of bad attitude in return? That’s because writing is NOT the same as speaking and because of the immediacy of email, we often equate it to conversation rather than written communication. How many “email pals” do you have who you have never met in person? They only know you from the words you type on the screen and the flow of your language.
In our class, we talk about emails as well as other forms of written communications, measuring each medium against the backdrop of targeted audiences and goals.
Oh, and emails never die; they just get sent round and round and round. That’s reason enough to make sure they are well written!
My family abandoned me at a Houghton-Mifflin satellite office when I was four, and ever since, the sight of a textbook fills me with rage. This has led to some academic hurdles—for instance, I was banned from my college bookstore after an incident with a paper shredder. Is it possible for me to become a better writer and learn about grammar without coming into contact with a textbook? ~E-Publishing Advocate
Dear Mr. Advocate,
Textbooks are a dirty word here at StoryStudio! The Business Writing Fundamentals class is more like a work retreat, complete with lunch and candy and coffee and lots of laughing. We read a bit, we work on writing exercises, we complain about grammar, and finish the day with more confidence, creativity and better writing skills. You’re even invited to bring a project from your inbox to edit with instructor feedback.
High school was kind of a rough time for me, and I didn’t pay a lot of attention in my English classes. Am I going to end up embarrassed because I don’t know what an Oxford comma is? –Holden C
Commas, participles, gerunds, Oh My!
Relax Oxford Comma, the grammar portion of the day is when we all raise our hands and admit that we can’t tell a dangling participle from a modified pronoun. I mean really, who cares about this stuff?
Grammar and punctuation exist to make sure that what the reader understands is what we wanted to say. While we do spend a bit of time in class talking about the rules (and how to break them), these writing tools are explained in the context of how we can better tell our stories.
My boss has an irrational hatred of the semicolon. (I don’t think he’s too fond of textbooks, either.) The problem is, the semicolon is my signature punctuation mark; it’s highly integral to my writing style. What should I do? ~Semi Colon
Semicolonphobia is a common ailment, often noticed in teak offices and around conference tables. I personally love a semicolon; it’s a sublime bit of punctuation. But in a pinch, a period can almost always be used instead of a semicolon.