writing advice

Writing and Publishing Workplace Information

At your workplace, you will come across a range of different information. As a staff member of your company, it is your job to ensure that the information you receive is transferred into a document of the appropriate format.
Understanding the format your information must take and how it must be published or sent to others can often be confusing. However, there are a number of steps you can take to make you pick the write format and publishing method for your information.

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The Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How

When writing a document, consider:

Who does the information apply to (eg. all staff members within the workplace)?
What
information is the document sharing (eg. there is a BBQ lunch held on Friday)?
Where is the event/subject of the message held (eg. The BBQ lunch is held in the lunchroom, the new photocopier can be found in the administration office)?
When does the message apply (eg. The BBQ is on Friday at 12pm, the new photocopier is to be installed Thursday at 10am)?
Why are you writing this document (eg. To inform all staff members of a BBQ lunch this Friday, to let all relevant staff know there will be a new photocopier installed)?
How is the message meant to be conveyed (eg. the BBQ message must be sent to all staff members and received over the few days)? Some messages may be urgent and require a fast response from the receiver.

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Formats and Their Uses

There are a range of different formats that can be used to convey a message and many of these formats can be used for multiple different types of messages. However, it is up to you to find the format that is best suited for the tone of the message, purpose of the message and the audience who will receive the message.

Email – Use email when you need to send a short-to-lengthy message. Emails are best used for queeries – as they are easy for receivers to respond to – and to pass on information – as they allow for lengthy peices of information to be added and can be sent to multiple different receivers.

Letter – Letters are used when non-urgent information must be sent (as emails can take a long time to send), and it usually best used for thank-you letters and updating customers/clients and other businesses. Bills and statements are also often sent in letter form, as they allow clients to physically bring their bill into banks, post offices or the business the bill originated from, in order to pay them. Patients may also wish to pay the bill via a check, cash, or by listing their credit card details on the bill itself so the original supplier of the bill can follow the procedures to pay it. In this format, the letter can be returned to the sender with the payment details enclosed and this returned letter is often free of charge via the biller.

Fax – Faxes are used to convey relatively short messages that must be received relatively quickly, similar to email. A cover sheet must be attached to the front of the fax message, containing the area the message must be sent to (eg. Reception, Dr Kahn’s office). Faxes are being quickly replaced by emails due to the speed and efficiency sending emails provides over faxing.

Memo – Memos are used to convey very short messages, usually containing information or other one-way messages (messages that do not require a response). Memos, similar to faxes, are being quickly replaced with emails.

Text – Texting is usually used when the message must be conveyed urgently and can be used to receive a quick answer to an inquiry or contact clients and other businesses. Texting is always informal, and must only be used when the matter is urgent.

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How Should Information be Written?

Although different formats will often differ in their writing style and tone, they will usually all contain the same basic structure. This includes:

  •  A greeting.
  • An introduction.
  • The main body of the message (main points/main paragrahs).
  • A conclusion.
  • A sign off

In letters – also some faxes and memos – a letterhead will be used. A letterhead will usually include the name of the person sending the email, the name of the business the sender works at, the sender’s position at the business (eg. manager, assistant supervisor) and the sender or business’ contact details (address, phone number, email etc.).
Emails contain a similar feature, only the details are usually featured below the main body of the email rather than above it.

Emails, Letters, Memos and Faxes may also include a signature after the sign-off. The document may be printed and physically signed, or may be uploaded using an image of the signature. The signer of the document is usually the sender, but could also be the manager or supervisor of the staff member who sent the document.

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Proofreading and Editing

Once a draft of the document has been written out, it will often require a round of editing or proofreading.

Editing is done when the first draft has been constructed and includes substantive (structural) changes. This may mean swapping paragraphs around, cutting out any unimportant or repetitive details or completely changing the format used to better suit the message being expressed.
A supervisor, manager or staff member more experienced with writing documents may be asked to help edit your document and provide valuable feedback as to how it can be improved.

Proofreading is done when the document is believed to be structurally sound, and includes changing, adding or omitting words or sentences and fixing incorrect grammar and spelling.
Another staff member may also be required to proofread the document, as other staff members will often be able to spot mistakes you have looked over.

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Publishing Your Document

When you are satisfied your document is clear of grammatical, spelling and structural errors, you will need to publish it. This sounds simple enough, but there are some things you will need to keep in mind during this process.

Check the address. Whether sending texts, emails, letters, memos or faxes, always check the address (email address, street address, fax number or phone number).

  • Addressing Emails – Emails are addressed using the email address of the intended receiver (eg. jodi.Carls@live.com.au), and include short subject line that summarises what the email is about (eg. Friday Staff BBQ). When emailing, you may find it handy to use the CC (carbon copy) or BCC (blind carbon copy) feature. This allows you to address multiple people, meaning you can send the document to multiple people who might need it. The BCC feature allows you to add multiple addresses without the primary receiver (the ‘to’ address) seeing the other email addresses.
  • Addressing Letters – When addressing letters, ensure the address is written correctly on the envelope. This ensures the correct person/business receives the document.

Eg.  Caroline Adams,
Adam’s Pharmacy,
23 Wilkes Street,
VIC AUS 3219

To include a unit or lot number, write it before the street address (eg. Unit 5, 23 Wilkes Street).
It is also important to make sure the correct amount of stamps is placed on the envelope. This will be a $1 stamp for local postage in Australia (soon rising to $1.10). If there is an insufficient amount of stamps, or the ‘to’ address in incorrect, the letter will be sent back to you (‘return to sender’).

  • Addressing Faxes – When sending a fax, you will need to include the name of the receiver, their landline phone number and their fax number. Faxes are usually sent using a fax machine or a general photocopier which includes a faxing feature. If faxing a business, make sure to include the area the fax is being sent to (eg. Administration).
  • Addressing Memos – Memos are usually sent in either an online (via email or another similar program) or printed and sent or handed out. Memos should contain the receiver’s name, the sender’s name, the date the message is being sent and a ‘subject’ line containing a short summary of what the memo is about.
  • Addressing Texts – Texts are addressed using the phone number of the receiver. You may add multiple recievers in the ‘to’ section, meaning that multiple people will receive the message. When writing texts on behalf of your business, ensure that you include the name of the receiver, a greeting, a main body of text and a sign off.
    eg.  Hello Karen,
    I have organised the BBQ for 12pm Friday.
    Thank you,
    Chase
    Texts are usually kept short and to-the-point, but must still be kept formal as you are still representing your business.

Keep a copy – When sending a message, make sure that you still have a copy of the message sent available to you. You will usually be able to easily access a duplicate of text messages, emails and faxes as these are kept either in their original form, or are available through your ‘sent’ messages folders.
Ensure you photocopy any memos or letters that have been written directly onto paper. This ensures that you are able to properly reference your sent material if it is ever questioned. It also ensures that a copy can be re-sent if a letter happens to get lost in the mail.

Date it – Whenever you send a message, ensure that you write the date on the very top. This means that if the integrity of the document ever comes into question – such as through a court case – the date the letter was written and sent will be readily available for proof of integrity. This can also be useful if you have to look back on previous messages to put together a time line (eg. to remember the last time you sent out a business report).

Summary

As an employee, you need to make sure all information you send is put into the correct format, edited to ensure it is free of grammar and spelling mistakes, and published using the correct method. If you are unsure as to how a specific piece of information is to be published, it is best to look over your workplace’s Policies and Procedures Manual, or to ask your supervisor, manager, or a staff member experienced in document writing.

 

References

writing advice

The Epidemic of Showing AND Telling, and How You Can Avoid it

As a newbie editor, I’ve come across my fair share of errors and faults in writing. Usually, when I pick up a piece of writing, I’m on the look out for grammatical errors: spelling mistakes or words used in the wrong context. Sometimes I’ll pull up on a sentence that could be structured differently to make it easier to read, or a paragraph that doesn’t make much sense within the story. But there’s something I’ve been coming across recently that’s been bugging me a lot, something that I just can’t help but notice in most of the first-drafts I read, a little something called the ‘Epidemic of Showing AND Telling’.

What Does ‘Show DON’T Tell’ Mean?

Well, to put it straight, it means that instead of simply telling the audience something that’s occurring in your story, you describe it. That might be describing the actual events, or it could mean describing the effects of the events. Lets start with this basic example:

‘Sarah was afraid.’ 

     Sure, this sentence does the job. Anybody who reads it is going to know immediately how Sarah feels, but it’s vague. Simply telling readers how a character feels probably isn’t going to resonate with them. It’s a ‘blank statement’; something people read and attach virtually no feeling to, akin to reading a fact. So how can you make it resonate? Show!

‘Sarah’s legs began to tremor. A tingling sensation crawled up her spine.’

     Again, it’s short, but rather than telling readers exactly how the character ‘Sarah’ feels, readers are asked to work it out for themselves. It adds an element of trust between the reader and the author; the author trusting in the reader to put two and two together rather than spoon-feeding them everything, and the reader trusting the author to put together a description comprehensively enough for them to be able to put two and two together. Although both examples mean the same thing, one tells the reader what the character feels, and the other allows the reader to connect to the character through a description of feelings that they too have probably experienced before and can therefore relate to. And, as every author knows, relatability is everything.

What is ‘Showing AND Telling’?

To be fair, there is a lot more ‘showing’ these days than there used to be. Ever since the ‘show don’t tell’ phrase got attention, people have been taking notice and adapting their writing to fit the rule. However, although people have started to take the ‘showing’ aspect into account, there’s been quite a few that haven’t wrapped their head around the ‘don’t tell’ part of the phrase. Instead of just showing, they’re both showing AND telling. Here’s our example again, this time showing AND telling:

‘Sarah was afraid. Her legs began to tremor and a tingling sensation crawled up her spine.’

      It doesn’t take a genius to see the author’s lack of trust on this piece. They’re showing the reader that the character of Sarah is afraid, but they add the ‘telling’ in fear the reader won’t get the picture. As pretty much any reader will notice, it’s not necessary. Everyone knows what it feels like to be afraid. Readers know that wobbly knees and a tingle along the spine mean fear and, with the context of the story’s events added in, it doubles the reader’s awareness. They know what your describing, so there’s no need to tell them.

Curing the Epidemic

So, how exactly does an author cure the ‘Showing AND Telling’ epidemic? Well, it’s pretty easy: if you find yourself using both, get rid of one. Sure, telling is still an important part of writing. There will be times when telling is necessary for your story, but for the most part, showing should always take priority, especially when it comes to vital emotionally-driven scenes (which should be a pretty big majority of your writing if your novel is fiction). If telling is necessary, such as in a fast-paced fight scene, make sure you aren’t including any long, droning descriptions or ‘showing’ that might slow down the scene’s pace.

The best way to deal with the issue is to look at each event, page or paragraph, and look at how certain elements are described. If there’s a ‘show’ and a ‘tell’ describing the same element of the story and the ‘show’ suits the story’s pace, get rid of the ‘tell’. Not only will it make your story ten times less demanding to read, but it’ll cut down your word-count, too.

Last but not least, if you’re still not sure, consult a beta reader, editor, or (come on, you saw this coming), myself. Using the ‘contact me’ page, any author who’s still confused can send a message through requesting a free five-page trial edit on their writing, meaning I can pick up on all those ‘showing and telling’ moments and give some advice on how to fix it up.

writing advice

Five Bits Of Reassurance All Writers Need To Hear

Ok, so you’re a writer. You’ve just finished writing a book or a short story or maybe even just a chapter of your latest work in progress. Adrenaline flows through your veins as you print it out for the first time and place it on your desk. It’s your baby, your beloved, your life, and it’s right there in front of you all in paper form. You stare at it, feel the weight of it in your hands as you inhale the luscious scent of fresh ink set on a wad of new paper. It’s beautiful. It’s all you’ve dreamed of. You sit down and you start to read.
But no.
Oh God no.
No… it’s… it’s terrible!

Sound familiar? Trust me, you’re not alone. Almost every writer feels like a bad writer at some point in their life. Most of the time, it’s completely unjustified, but no matter how much you tell yourself its all in your head, there’ll always be that little nagging voice at the back of your head telling you to give up.
Well, ladies and gents, I’m here to tell you that voice is completely full of it. Honestly. If that voice was a person, it’d be that weird uncle that always tells you about his wild adventures running from the CIA or that one time he was hired by the Mafia to run errons… yeah, it’s that full of it.
But, if you’re anything like me, no matter how unreasonable you know that voice is, you’ll still get disheartened; you’ll still feel like it’s all not worth it. So, I’m here to give you five pieces of reassurance that’ll keep you battling that voice during those tough times. Because there’s nothing more reassuring than receiving advice from a complete stranger on the internet, right? Right!

You’re Comparing it to Other Authors

Chances are if you’re a writer, you’re probably also an avid reader. Like most readers, you’ve got a preferred writing style. You might not notice it – a lot of people don’t – but almost every reader will be drawn to a certain type of writing. Maybe you like fast paced books. Maybe you read books that have shorter sentences. Maybe you like books with flowery wording and intensive world building. No matter what kind of reader you are, you’re always drawn to a certain type of writing.
But did you ever think that the reason you’re criticising your writing so much is because it doesn’t fit in your preferred reading style box?
Most writers will compare their writing to their favourite books, but there’s a hazard to that practise. The more you compare, the more similar you get and the more similar you get, the worse it is for your writing career. Yeah, it might sound fantastic to you, but sounding like another author is an instant no-no from not only readers, but agents, publishers and editors alike. Having a different writing style from what you normally read isn’t just right, it’s sought-after by publishers. So, before you put on your critical eye and go over your writing, make sure you’re not looking at it from the eye of your favourite author first.

You’ve Given it… What?… A Day?

Every professional author knows that reading through a piece straight after you’ve written it is a cry for bad editing. Not only does it mean you’ll probably skimp over a lot of the mistakes, but it can also mean you’ll pick up on a lot of mistakes that aren’t really there, too. This doesn’t just mess with your head, but it can be disastrous for your writing project, too.
The best advice? When you’ve written something, give it at least a day’s break. If you find you’re still being too harsh on yourself, give it a week, maybe even a month before coming back to it. Not only will you find it easier to read it from a reader’s point of view and pick up on inconsistencies more easily, but you’ll also find a lot of your doubts about your writing will disappear, too. Remember, nothing is a disaster beyond fixing. Nothing is worth giving up.

There are Successful Writers Who are Worse Writers Than You

Yeah, that’s right. I’m going there.
Believe it or not, it’s not all that difficult to get published these days. With publishing platforms getting bigger and bigger and a lot of them moving online, it’s really never been easier to publish a book. With a few dollars and a click of a few buttons, basically anybody can get published, and although this is usually a little alarming for most writers, it can also be a source of comfort for you, too. Because, yeah, with the amount of published writers out there, there’s always bound to be a few just…. terrible books for you to find. Funnily enough, there are also a lot of terrible books that’ve done pretty well financially, too.
So, if you’re ever feeling down about your writing, pick up a terrible book, read through it’s cringey dialogue and disastrous plot devices and let yourself think: well, at least I’m not that bad. Trust me, it works.

Most People Will Never Write a Book in Their Life

There was an old survey in America a few years back that showed that about 80-90% of Americans think they have a book in them. It’s common knowledge to most serious writers that almost everybody thinks they could write a book if they had the time or the patience or… whatever other excuse they can think of. But chances are, they won’t. Chances are, these people will never in their life actually write, finish and publish a book.
So why are you so hard on yourself? You’ve written something, for god’s sake! You’ve taken time out of your life and you sat down and you hand typed every damn word that you’ve printed out. Every single one of those words are yours! Do you know how impressive that is? Compared to the rest of the world, you’re already a rarity.
Calm down, put that critical thinking had down on the table for a second, and just let the reality of it all sink in. You wrote something. And what you’ve written, you can always fix!

Edit! Edit! Edit!

This should be a given, but to a lot of people it’s not. When you finish writing a book or a chapter or… whatever it is that you’re writing, your work is now ready for editing. It’s not just ready for editing, but it’s waiting for it. It needs it. Every single piece of work needs an editor, no matter how good that person might be at their craft. First, you self-edit. Go through all the things you think you should be fixing up. Then, send it out to other readers and get their opinions on it and finally, send it out to a professional.
These are the steps every single writer goes through. Don’t skimp out on them and don’t expect to have to skimp out on them! No work is perfect and no work will ever be perfect until it’s had an editor’s eyes on it – a few editor’s eyes in most cases.
You’re not a bad writer, you’re an unedited writer!

 

So, if you’re ever feeling down about your writing, remember, you’re not alone. Oh and also the Fifty Shades of Gray books are making billions of dollars and getting movie deals so there’s always hope for you.
Now stop procrastinating and get back to writing!

writing advice

Jordan Peele, Taika Waititi and the Art of Cliches

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably come across the idea of story ‘cliches’ before. In this media dominated era, it’s pretty hard not to. We’re a people captivated by stories and desperate to delve into new worlds and universes that differ from our own. After so many centuries of stories, I guess it’s not really much of a surprise that Hollywood’s been stated as having no ‘new’ ideas. Everybody’s on the look out for original stories, but to this day, not much has turned up, and most of what has been deemed as original content has been a box office flop compared to films like Doctor Strange – a film that utilises a majority of previous Marvel film plot points (hint, hint, Iron Man). So, if cliches are seen as bad, why are they doing so well? And why do stories that actually break these cliches so often fail?

One of the first movies that come to mind for me when the topic of ‘original stories’ are mentioned, is Jordan Peele’s 2017 directorial debut ‘Get Out‘. The film, centring around a young black man who meets the family of his white girlfriend for the first time, was a huge success both in the box office and in the eyes of critics. However, there’s one feature of this film that’s never really talked about: the fact that it is completely riddled with cliches. With jump scares (granted not many), an evil hypnotist and a house out in the middle of the wilderness, there’s really no denying this film’s unoriginality, but it’s this unoriginality that makes Get Out not only a memorable movie, but also a boxoffice hit.

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Jordan Peele, using his knowledge of horror audiences and their expectations, manages to do something that’s rarely done by many directors today: manipulate common cliches. Instead of avoiding these cliches altogether, as many writers are told to do, Peele uses these cliches to his advantage, creating a predictable plot and an emotionally jarring central character.
The moment that Chris turns up at the house of his girlfriend Rose’s parents, we know something’s wrong. They live in an isolated country side, have some suspiciously odd helpers around the house, Rose’s parents are far too friendly and Rose’s mother is a hypnotist. It doesn’t take long at all for the audience to realise Chris is in for a double dose of horror, but it’s these expectations that make the film all the more satisfying when we find out the truth. It’s also what makes the plot twist so shocking. By reusing and slightly twisting old cliches, Peele hides the truth right under our nose – Rose was the bad guy all along. There were so many predictable cliches in the first half that our sense of ‘who-done-it’ is stripped away and we watch the film without question until it’s finally revealed that Peele has been playing us the whole time.

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In a way, Get Out was also the perfect way to introduce ‘Indie’, more original films to a mainstream audience. Audiences can all identify these cliche story points. They’re in all the big modern horror hits, allowing for Get Out to slip among the greats with gusto. We’re expecting your average horror film and predictable horror films sell. Get Out manages to bring something new to horror, wrapping it in a coat of predictability in order to attract mainstream audiences.

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However, Peele isn’t the only director that has used cliches to their advantage. Starting off as a relatively unknown Indie director, Taika Waititi became a name to be reckoned with in after his work on the Marvel blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok.

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Thor: Ragnarok is a pretty good example of twisting cliches in itself, using the well known ‘superhero’ trend to add something new and fun to the genre, but there’s another less known film of Waititi’s that has perfected the art of using already established cliches to a tee, and that film is What We Do In The Shadows.

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What We Do In The Shadows is one of Waititi’s finest comedies and arguably one of the best comedies to come from New Zealand cinema to date. Centring around the lives of a group of vampires that happen to live in the New Zealand town of Wellington, the film takes on a mocumentary style, making use of cliches to tell a ridiculous and absurdly heart-warming tale of friendship. It also, as expected, makes use of a lot of cliches.

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From the Twilight series and The Vampire Diaries tv show, to old classics such as Dracula and Nosferatu, the media has always been littered with vampires. In fact, the mere mention of vampires among horror writing communities will usually result in eye rolls. What We Do In The Shadows, even though a modern day vampire film itself, has become a critical and commercial success over the years. Why? It all comes down to Waititi’s incredibly smart use of cliches.
Waititi’s film is far from original, but it uses this unoriginality to create a level of comedy that has rarely been done before: it uses known and predictable plot points to create unknown situations. Waititi uses cliche vampire situations – such as drinking blood, turning into bats, romance between humans and vampires and wars between vampires and werewolves – to explore what it would really be like to live as one of these Wellington vampires. From bloody dishes to a romance between an undying vampire and a ninety-year-old woman, everything in this film is ridiculous and if it weren’t for the use of these cliche situations, What We Do In The Shadows wouldn’t be anywhere near as hilarious as it is.

 

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So, yeah, cliches aren’t always necessarily a bad thing. When done right, they can be just as interesting, if not even better, than some of the original cliche material. All they need is a little twist!