Weber's Writing & PR Tips


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“It’s” vs. “Its”…Quickie Tip for Today

Not all of us have time to read long posts, and not all of us have time to write them :) so let’s keep today’s tip quick and easy: What is the difference between “It’s” and “Its”?

  • “It’s” is the contraction of “it is.”
  • “Its” (no apostrophe) is the possessive form of “it.”  They are easy to mix up and a common error.

Examples of “it’s”… 

The sentence “It is snowing outside…” is the same as saying “It’s snowing outside…”

The sentence “It is Thursday today…” is the same as saying “It’s Thursday today…”

Example of “its”

My car needs repairs. It’s bumper is about to fall off. (The car possesses a bumper that is about to fall off!)

The neighbor’s dog keeps me up all night. It’s loud barking is startling at 2 AM. (The dog possesses a loud bark.)

So, is this sign correct below?

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Stationary vs. Stationery, and does it matter?

While editing a client’s work I noticed a reference about how to order “stationary” or letterhead. The word was spelled incorrectly and the correct way to spell it in this context is: stationery.

When the client saw my correction he laughed and said, “Does it really matter?”

I suppose in a world full of big issues like the recent Ebola outbreak, poverty and global warming, the way we spell a word seems insignificant. But, for reasons unknown to me, I am fascinated by language. I like its quirky rules, its evolution, and its creativity.

So, for me, if I am going to call myself a writer or an editor, it does matter. Rules of language help us communicate effectively with each other. Respect for language and its rules are part of what keeps us civilized. And without all of its rules, a “language geek” like me would find it less challenging and entertaining.

Your tip for today? Learn the difference between stationary and stationery. It will be one less error on your website or in your brochure.

Stationary: standing still or in a fixed position; also, not changing in quantity or condition

Example: The ice cream truck originally traveled throughout the neighborhood selling cones and slush, but now it is stationary on the corner of Pleasant Street and Main. That must be a good location for sales!

Stationery: writing paper, especially letterhead and matching envelopes

Example: I bought some stationery for my grandmother, as she still likes to write long letters by hand. God bless her!

What’s wrong with this sign?  :)

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Scrod, cod and smart husbands

When I was younger and worked in a restaurant, “scrod” was always on the menu. It looked to be a plain and mushy piece of white fish with a few breadcrumbs on top. I tasted it, and yes, this particular scrod was a bland and feeble piece of fish.

Fast forward to now… during a conversation about food writing with my husband, I told him I did not like scrod. He said, “Hmm. Well, do you like cod?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Do you like haddock?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Then you like scrod!”

Naturally an ‘argument’ ensued, and I vehemently stuck to my position. I did not like scrod! Just to prove him wrong, I researched the issue online, and lo and behold, my husband was right. He is only right once a year so I am marking this special occasion by writing about it now.

In New England, scrod (sometimes spelled schrod) is not a specific type of fish. Scrod refers to any young white-fleshed fish. Some say the term was invented to describe the freshest catch of the day, or Secured Catch Received On Dock. It is believed restaurant owners who did not want to change menus everyday coined the term to describe whatever white fish was available. Although the origin of the word scrod has been debated for years, this much we do know: In New England scrod can mean any young white fish that is available, normally cod or haddock.

Looking back, perhaps I did not like the way the scrod was prepared in the particular restaurant I worked in. It’s bland, feeble taste kept me way forever. I plan to visit another restaurant and order it, to hopefully change my perception of this dish. With my new  knowledge, I can taste and write about scrod with an open and informed mind.

YOUR TIP: When writing about food, especially regional or ethnic dishes that you think you are familiar with, it doesn’t hurt to look up the dish online and verify what the “facts” are.  Verify the origins of the food or recipe, and how its name came about. You might learn something new in the process.

Now, I must reluctantly thank my husband for this insight on this topic. He is scheduled to be correct about something next year around this time. He has been eating more fish lately, which is said to make you smarter. So, check back often just in case he surprises us with more wisdom! :)

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Today’s Publicity Tip: Publicity Begins at Home

At a networking event last year, I was talking publicity to a musician who complained that his own parents never attended his gigs. I asked, “Did you invite them?” and he paused and said, “I guess I thought my publicity person would notify them.”

Perhaps there was more to his story about why he didn’t directly invite his parents, but in any case, when a performer or artist wants an audience, Rule #1 is: publicity begins at home. You must tell your family and close friends about your events. People like to be invited and want to know their presence is wanted. In the case of older people, who may not use email or the internet, direct invitations are best. You can also print a calendar of your upcoming performances and post them right on Mom and Pop’s refrigerator.

If you want your publicity agent to notify your family and close friends, provide a list of names, email addresses, phone numbers and other contact information so the names can be added to your publicity list. A good publicity list often has categories including “VIP” or “Family” so key people are never left uninvited. Family and friends are the foundation for many things–and should be your biggest fans.

Performers who hesitate to become involved in their own publicity and marketing can still pack a performance hall, but when an important person like Mom or Dad are not in the audience, something feels amiss.

Audience

Look for more publicity tips on this blog, and if you have any questions, feel free to email me here or post a comment. 


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Today’s Writing Tip: To Serve or to Service, that is the question!

Once when reviewing a client’s resume, I noticed that he wrote, “I service people across the North Shore.” He must have been a busy man. Just a slight change in word choice makes it more professional: “I serve people across the North Shore.”

Used as slang, “to service” means “to interact with someone sexually”.  If you want the more crude definition, look the word “service” in the Urban Dictionary.  For better or worse, slang makes it way into common use, and its best to be aware of any questionable words especially when you’re looking for a job.

Right now check out your resume or website and search for the word “service”. Make sure it does not imply that you are sleeping your way across the state. :)

Call or email me if you want me to scan your resume for awkward or inappropriate words and phrases.  It’s free and you’ll be one step closer to finding the job of your dreams!

eric's resume


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Today’s Writing Tip: Frankly My Dear, I Don’t Give a Dam!!? Or a Damn???

In the middle of a heated email exchange with someone, there’s nothing worse for a writer than getting back this response: “I thought you were a writer and you can’t even spell the word ‘damn’ correctly.” So, if you’re going to curse in writing, you might as well do it right.

But just what is the difference between ‘dam’ and ‘damn’?  The most common definition for dam (no ‘n’ on the end) is a barrier that holds back water. Simple enough.

“Damn” with the ‘n’ at the end, is the curse word. Damn can be used in many ways, kind of like the word s#@t.  But damn most commonly expresses frustration or surprise. “Damn! I’ve been spelling the word damn wrong for twenty years!”

In religion, variations of damn are also used to condemn a person to suffer in that hot place with a lot of fire. I have a feeling there’s a lot of cursing going on in that place…but I am getting off track here.

Cursing does not really have a place in professional business writing. But it does have its place in creative storytelling or in your personal exchanges with people you know, to a point.*  If you’re going to curse in writing, save it for those extra special angry moments, and do it right.  If you’re not sure how to spell a swear, or you only want to mildly offend someone but not push them over the edge, you can always do this: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a d@*% !!”


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Today’s Writing Tip: What’s the Difference Between Decor & Decorum?

Recently I sat with a friend in the Cheesecake Factory having lunch. As he gazed at the colorful glass light fixtures he said, “I really like the decorum in here.” Being a writer, I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. I responded, “Do you like the ‘decorum’ or the ‘decor’?”  And then we both laughed. It was the first of many times I gently corrected his use of the English language. All of us, including us writers, make mistakes with words that sound similar. But just what is the difference between decor and decorum?

Decor is defined as the decorations or furnishings of a space. For example, “The decor of the Cheesecake Factory with its Egyptian columns and gold tones is considered to be elegant by some, and tacky by others.”

Decorum is most commonly defined as the appropriateness of behavior or conduct in relation to the surroundings. For example, “The dinner guests at the Cheesecake Factory displayed proper decorum by not burping loudly or swearing in front of the children eating next to them.”

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