Sunday, February 21, 2010

Delivering on the order

Whether you write for school or for work, you are likely to be given certain assignments. How well you respond to them can make a big difference in the type of praise you receive.

Let’s pretend that you are in a restaurant and a server approaches your table. You tell him or her that you would like a steak made rare and a side of mashed potatoes with cheese and mushrooms. After awhile the server brings you the plate and walks away. You quickly discover that the steak is overcooked and that mashed potatoes, while covered with cheese, have no sign of mushrooms. You wonder to yourself how difficult it is to get simple instructions straight and vow not to give the server any tip.

How is this example related to writing? Very closely. All assignments (just like restaurant orders) typically provide with them a set of instructions or a list of specific things that need to be included. Whenever those instructions are not fulfilled to the satisfaction of the requester, people get upset. Just like you wouldn’t be too happy if your plate was missing mushrooms and had an overcooked steak, your college instructor or work supervisor wouldn’t be too happy if parts of the assigned task are completely missing and others are not done to the exact specifications.

The moral of this story is that delivering exactly what is ordered (so to speak) is the first and very important step in satisfying your customer (i.e. instructor, supervisor, etc.). Satisfied customers in a restaurant tend to leave higher tips for their servers. Similarly, teachers and supervisors that receive exactly what they requested tend to grade the writers higher (literally and symbolically).

When you receive an assignment, review it carefully; if necessary, write down a list of things that you need to address and exactly how they should be addressed. As you start writing your response, check things off as you address them. Review the assignment again after you complete the report to make sure that you have done everything you were expected to do. Your reward is likely to increase to the extent that what you deliver matches the order.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Texting madness

Can writing be disruptive to a business? It can if it is done for inappropriate purposes or at inappropriate times. One such example is texting. Texting is a method of written communication through a cell phone. It has become increasingly popular; so much so that people often interrupt a conversation or a meeting to respond to an incoming text.

Communication has changed in the 21st century. Facebook, My Space, Twitter, and texting allow us to stay in constant contact. However, while we appear to get closer to each other, we are also becoming more detached, as most of our interaction happens through a machine screen instead of face to face. There was a time when people could not carry a phone out of a building. Today, many don’t leave the room without a phone in hand, bringing our need to stay in touch to the level of an obsession.

Some people act as though texting should logically be given precedence over anything else that happens at the moment. As a result, they interrupt all interactions and activities to attend to a text. In reality, maintaining a constant interaction with one’s social network is usually unnecessary and can be quite a nuisance. Excessive texting (just like excessive personal phone use) can be inappropriate and should be kept in check.

This is applicable not only to work situations but to any social situation. For example, have you ever been in the middle of a conversation with a friend only to be “put on hold” so that the friend could respond to a text? How did it make you feel to know that you come second to a text?

In addition to being disruptive, texting can also affect people’s writing skills. Many of today’s college students no longer capitalize their names (a skill taught in kindergarten) because they are used to the type of writing that does not follow normal writing conventions. Others start utilizing commonly accepted texting abbreviations, such as “u” for “you,” in other writing. This can have potentially damaging consequences because people are often judged by the quality of their writing.

While new technologies bring us new ways to stay in touch, we need to be careful and conscientious about how we use them. Writing to stay in touch is a great idea, but please do it at appropriate times and remember that the style of writing acceptable within the social networks is not acceptable within other forms of writing.

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