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right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. Author and humorist Mark Twain knew the importance of good communication. In fact, he built his entire career around the written and spoken words and used them to his advantage to create timeless novels like Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. However, Samuel Clemens wasn't only concerned with entertaining audiences with clever coming-of-age tales; Twain was also a brilliant social commentator who left much of his literary legacy through insightful, often sarcastic statements such as this one. His mastery of the right word made Mark Twain one of the most celebrated and admired American communicators of all time.
The difference between the right word and almost the right word was recently brought to our company's attention recently during the controversy and dispute over a circulating memo. A few misplaced words essentially changed lightening to lightening bug and as a result, morale in the office has been remarkably low, low enough to warrant some attention. Discussions in the staff lounge are less vibrant than usual; chatter at the water cooler is subdued; and coworkers seem reluctant to go out for drinks after work. If the atmosphere in our office continues to be so murky, we run the very real risk of losing business. After all, we all know that high morale leads to high productivity, and low morale leads to shrinking profits.
All these problems could have been avoided had our employees recognized the difference between the right word and almost the right word. One of the most reasonable, practical, feasible solutions to this issue would be that all employees improve their writing and communication skills vis-a-vis an intensive but enjoyable writing workshop. It won't be necessary to hire a staff writer or a communications consultant, or to ensure that all memos be worthy of publication in The New Yorker. If the employees in this company could write that well, then they would probably be in the running for the Pulitzer or working on their third novel while on a Mexican beach instead of spending fifty hours a week at their tiny desks.
We are not a publishing house; therefore, a straightforward and simple solution would be that each of us be required to improve our basic business communication skills. Such a task is not daunting and would only require a few days or weeks. Moreover, because no individual employee is entrusted with the sole task of composing all office communications, any one of us may be responsible for writing the next memo or letter. Therefore, it would be wise if each employee could write clear, effective communications. Even if we did decide to hire a specialist in business communications, it would still be advisable to have a fully literate staff to avoid the aforementioned problems.
Grunts and groans related to grammar-anxiety will undoubtedly be heard in the staff rooms, for few non-writers genuinely enjoy the mathematical, nitpicking rules of the English language. However, we all must ascribe to them, like it or not. Part of the writing workshop will undoubtedly include a review of fifth grade grammar rules about misplaced modifiers and split infinitives, because these are the building blocks of the English language. Without them we run the very real risk of losing clients and coworkers alike: imagine if the memo that was recently circulated had been a letter to a client. Moreover, most of us here probably forgot a lot of what we learned in grade school and we could stand a quick overview of the basics. Furthermore, many of us will probably be glad to hear the lessons being given by someone other than the teacher we had in fifth grade. The workshop instructors will be highly qualified, usually possessing Masters Degrees or higher and with years of experience helping people improve their communication skills. The company's employees will in fact be receptive to the material, especially after the recent controversy.
Repeating elementary school is not the only component of a writing workshop, which for our purposes will specifically focus on office communications: memos, letters, and the like. Attendants will not learn how to report on the Iraqi war or how to write children's novels. Rather, the workshop will mainly be about business communications, like how to focus attention on the intended audience to optimize communication. For instance, a company-wide memo will read…[continue]
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