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The First Fifty Tips


In the early 1990s, after I had been teaching college English for eight years, the director of staff development at one of our state agencies asked me to design and lead a two-day workshop on English grammar. I called that course "Get It Write." Soon I had requests from other agencies as well, and my client list began to grow. Today, Get It Write is a business offering a wide range of writing skills seminars in the workplace.

Nearly a decade after that first workshop, I started creating writing tips and sending them out via E-mail, primarily as a service to clients who wanted to continue honing their writing skills after they had participated in a Get It Write class. After eighteen years of teaching at the college level and ten years of conducting seminars in the business arena, I had a pretty good idea about the English grammar, mechanics, and usage issues that trouble writers most frequently. The writing tips, I hoped, would clarify some of the confusion many people experience as they edit their work.

Very early on in the process, I enlisted the help of my former college professor and longtime associate, Gayle Swanson, a first-rate writer and editor. Both Gayle and I believe (and teach!) that good writing demands rewriting, and I can assure you that we practice what we preach. Each tip was drafted and revised by me and then sent to Gayle for further revisions and editing, launching a series of volleys between us as we worked to make the information as clear and concise as possible. Not only did she collaborate with me in writing the tips, but she also created and executed the design and layout of this book.

Two years have passed since I sent out the first tip, and now we have produced more than fifty. Our distribution list now boasts nearly three thousand subscribers from around the world. Many of them are people who signed up after they attended a Get It Write seminar. The Internet has made it possible for many others to discover the tip archive on our site and to become subscribers as well.

So, one might ask, if the tips are archived on the Web site, why did we feel the need to publish The First Fifty Tips?

The initial and primary reason is that our subscribers asked for it. Like us, many of them still enjoy the printed book--something they can hold, throw in a briefcase, keep on their desks, lend to a friend, or give as a gift. Web sites are handy, but they are not good for reading in bed, in a long line, in a hammock, or at the beach.

Second, like most writers, we were not content to leave well enough alone. We knew that we could strengthen the tips by revising them (again!), and publishing them together as a book gave us a good reason to do so. We have tightened explanations, added examples, deleted examples that were problematic, and even corrected a few outright mistakes (yes, we are human).

Finally, we hope this book will extend learning beyond the limitations of a six-hour seminar or a fourteen-week college semester. Writing classes must first address the larger concerns of good writing: organization and development, tone and clarity, audience awareness and readability. Working carefully through those issues leaves little time to talk about the final stage of writing--the editing process. Often, classes are able to focus on grammar, mechanics, and usage for only a short time, covering only the most common errors. Writers who are serious about strengthening their editing skills must be committed to ongoing self-improvement and should avail themselves of many resources.

We would be remiss if we did not point out here that many editing issues are more about style than about correctness. Throughout this book we encourage our readers to find a reputable dictionary and style manual and to use them faithfully when they have questions. Ideally, every office, agency, or business will choose one style manual and one dictionary that all employees should consult when faced with editing questions. Consistency--not only within a single document but also within an organization--projects a professional and polished image. (Our tip on style manuals begins on p. 100.)

English teachers and others well versed in the language may find our choice and range of topics in The First Fifty Tips a bit eccentric. When we started writing the tips, we never intended to cover all English grammar, mechanics, and usage issues but only those we thought were most challenging for writers. Often we tackled a topic because one of our subscribers or someone visiting the Get It Write Web site had asked us about it. Of course a multitude of issues are not covered in the book, and we welcome your input regarding topics for future tips. Not only will we address your concerns in upcoming E-mail posts and archive the new tips on our site, but perhaps one day we will even be inspired to publish The Second Fifty Tips.

Nancy L. Tuten

Copyright 2002 Get It Write

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