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Elements of Good Writing: Sailing the “C’s”

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  1. Elements of Good Writing: Sailing the “C’s” Ed Mauss, Manager, Marketing Communications

  2. What is Elements of Style? • One of the most influential and best-known books on English grammar and usage. • Often required reading for American high school and college composition classes. • Cornell professor Strunk was original author in 1918 • Author E.B. White (Strunk’s former student) enhanced it in 1959 • Several updates published since then • Includes guidance on usage (grammar), composition and form, as well as words commonly misused or misspelled

  3. Getting Started

  4. Remember Your Audience Instead of: “Many IT professionals question the effectiveness of their IT investment and often feel that their business goals and objectives are not met.”

  5. Remember Your Audience Instead of: “Many IT professionals question the effectiveness of their IT investment and often feel that their business goals and objectives are not met.” Consider: “You’re not alone in questioning the effectiveness of your IT investments and discovering they fall short in meeting business goals.”

  6. Remember Your Audience Instead of: “Many IT professionals question the effectiveness of their IT investment and often feel that their business goals and objectives are not met.” Consider: “You’re not alone in questioning the effectiveness of your IT investments and discovering they fall short in meeting business goals.” Instead of: “InTrust for Databases is designed to provide maximum visibility into database activities and confidence that data assets are secure.”

  7. Remember Your Audience Instead of: “Many IT professionals question the effectiveness of their IT investment and often feel that their business goals and objectives are not met.” Consider: “You’re not alone in questioning the effectiveness of your IT investments and discovering they fall short in meeting business goals.” Instead of: “InTrust for Databases is designed to provide maximum visibility into database activities and confidence that data assets are secure.” Consider: “InTrust for Databases allows you to see everything happening inside your database and lets you rest assured all data is safe.”

  8. Let the Words Come Naturally • Isaac Asimov (wrote or edited more than 500 books): “Try to write reasonably well.” • “Do not worry about being an imitator; take pains instead to admire what is good.”

  9. Composition and Style: What to Do

  10. Choose a Structure and Stick to It • Make an Outline • Be Consistent

  11. One Paragraph Per Topic • How Many Thoughts in This Paragraph? • Great News! Our second new release this year of Big Brother Professional Edition 3.3 is available for download at www.bb4.com. Version 3.3 is backward and forward compatible. Upgrading is easy from any version of Big Brother allowing you to seamlessly port previous configurations along with all of your customization to our latest version. To celebrate the launch of this version, the first 100 customers to respond will receive: • 20% discount on all node/device license upgrades • 50% discount on second Big Brother Management Server

  12. One Paragraph Per Topic • At least three: • Great News! Our second new release this year of Big Brother Professional Edition 3.3 is available for download at www.bb4.com. • Version 3.3 is backward and forward compatible. Upgrading is easy from any version of Big Brother allowing you to seamlessly port previous configurations along with all of your customization to our latest version. • To celebrate the launch of this version, the first 100 customers to respond will receive: • 20% discount on all node/device license upgrades • 50% discount on second Big Brother Management Server

  13. Choose Clear Over Clever • Imagine you work in an animal shelter and you’ve got to move all the cats and dogs to a new building. Not only do you have to worry about fights breaking out, but you also run the risk that many animals will wander off, forcing you to shut down the shelter.

  14. Choose Clear Over Clever • Imagine you work in an animal shelter and you’ve got to move all the cats and dogs to a new building. Not only do you have to worry about fights breaking out, but you also run the risk that many animals will wander off, forcing you to shut down the shelter. • Exchange migrations can be chaotic. It’s challenging to keep track of all the components and prevent downtime.

  15. Speaking of Clear… • Are compliance issues keeping you up at night? Our new technical brief discusses the six most common change management challenges in meeting compliance regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley or OMB Circular A-123

  16. …Remember Transitions • Are compliance issues keeping you up at night? Our new technical brief discusses the six most common change management challenges in meeting compliance regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley or OMB Circular A-123 • Want to rest easy about your compliance issues? The first step is to download the technical brief Compliance Nightmares – and What You Can Do About Them.The brief discusses…

  17. Use the Active Voice and Action Verbs • Not: There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground. But:Dead leaves covered the ground. • Not: The reason that he left college was that his health became impaired. But:Failing health compelled him to leave college. • Not: Service levels are ensured by providing IT operations and development staff with the tools to optimize and validate business-critical JEE applications and Web services. But: You can ensure service levels through tools that optimize and validate business-critical JEE applications and Web services.

  18. Use the Active Voice and Action Verbs • Passive: • A sales increase of 32 percent occurred last month. The new procedure is thought to be superior by the president. The office will be cleaned by the janitor.

  19. Use the Active Voice and Action Verbs • Passive: • A sales increase of 32 percent occurred last month. The new procedure is thought to be superior by the president. The office will be cleaned by the janitor. • Active: • Sales increased 32 percent last month. The president thinks the new procedure is superior. The janitor will clean the office.

  20. Exceptions to Active Voice • To avoid placing blame: • “The software update was delayed until Thursday due to staffing problems” instead of “IT’s poor planning delayed the software update.” • When emphasis should be on the object: • “These reports cannot be confirmed” instead of “He cannot confirm these reports.”

  21. Put Statements in Positive Form • He was not very often on time >>He usually came late • not honest >> dishonest • did not remember >> forgot • did not pay any attention to >> ignored

  22. Use Concrete Language • Not: “A period of unfavorable weather set in.” But: “It rained every day for a week.” • Not: “maximize productivity;” But: “save hours each day.” • Not: “Any Active Directory downtime can have significant negative effects on employee productivity, application accessibility, communications, and possibly customer access.” But:…

  23. Use Concrete Language • Not: “A period of unfavorable weather set in.” But: “It rained every day for a week.” • Not: “maximize productivity;” But: “save hours each day.” • Not: “Any Active Directory downtime can have significant negative effects on employee productivity, application accessibility, communications, and possibly customer access.” But:… “When Active Directory goes down, employee productivity -- and possibly customer satisfaction – will fall as well.”  

  24. Omit Needless Words • he is a man who >> he • in a rapid manner >> rapidly • this is a subject which >> this subject • In order to >> to • in spite of the fact that >> though (although) • it is designed to provide >> it provides • call your attention to the fact that >> remind you • your overall environment >> your environment • underlying infrastructure >> infrastructure 

  25. Omit Needless Words • Of the many advantages of using SQL Server to support business-critical applications, performance, manageability and ease of use are viewed as the most important from the perspective of a SQL Server professional. While SQL Server is arguably one of the easiest database platforms to work with, there are some commonoversights and mistakes that SQL Server professionalsoften make – which can have a profound effect on how the database ultimately performs. 

  26. Omit Needless Words • Of the many advantages of using SQL Server to support business-critical applications, performance, manageability and ease of use are viewed as the most important from the perspective of a SQL Server professional. While SQL Server is arguably one of the easiest database platforms to work with, there are some commonoversights and mistakes that SQL Server professionalsoften make – which can have a profound effect on how the database ultimately performs.  • Yourely on SQL Server’s performance, manageability and ease of use to support your business-critical applications. But it’s also easy to make common mistakes that can undermine the integrity of your database.

  27. Use Parallel Construction • While this means you can recover any file, enormous amounts of data are filling up expensive storage systems. Unchecked growth in corporate data combined with more and more hardware to store it creates a data management nightmares and a lot of wasted money.

  28. Use Parallel Construction • While this means you can recover any file, enormous amounts of data are filling up expensive storage systems. Unchecked growth in corporate data combined with more and more hardware to store it creates data management nightmares and a lot of wasted money. • While this means you can recover any file, [it also means that] enormous amounts of data are filling up expensive storage systems. Unchecked growth in corporate data combined with more and more hardware to store it creates data management nightmares and [leads to] a lot of wasted money.

  29. Use Parallel Construction: Bullets • Track compliance of your operational level agreements for the network • Dashboards and reports provide instant assessment of current and over time performance • Understand the impact of network performance on business service levels • Prioritize the network issues impacting the business to properly allocate staff resources • Faster network and capacity problem resolution times

  30. Use Parallel Construction: Bullets • Track compliance of your operational level agreements for the network • Dashboards and reports provide instant assessment of current and over time performance [Get rapid assessments of current and historical performance with dashboards and reports] • Understand the impact of network performance on business service levels • Prioritize the network issues impacting the business to properly allocate staff resources • Faster network and capacity problem resolution times [Resolve network and capacity problems faster than ever].

  31. Use Parallel Construction: Modifier Phrases • As a valued Quest Software customer, we invite you to learn about our exciting initiatives around Windows PowerShell.

  32. Use Parallel Construction: Modifier Phrases • As a valued Quest Software customer, we invite you to learn about our exciting initiatives around Windows PowerShell. • As a valued Quest Software customer, you are invited to learn about our exciting initiatives around Windows PowerShell.

  33. Keep Related Words Together • He noticed a large stain in the rug that was right in the center

  34. Keep Related Words Together • He noticed a large stain in the rug that was right in the center >> He noticed a large stain right in the center of the rug.

  35. Keep Related Words Together • He noticed a large stain in the rug that was right in the center >>He noticed a large stain right in the center of the rug. • You can call your mother in Columbus and tell her all about George's taking you out to dinner for just two dollars.

  36. Keep Related Words Together • He noticed a large stain in the rug that was right in the center >> He noticed a large stain right in the center of the rug. • You can call your mother in Columbus and tell her all about George's taking you out to dinner for just two dollars. >> For just two dollars, you can call your mother in Columbus and tell her all about George's taking you out to dinner.

  37. Keep Related Words Together • He noticed a large stain in the rug that was right in the center >> He noticed a large stain right in the center of the rug. • You can call your mother in Columbus and tell her all about George's taking you out to dinner for just two dollars. >> For just two dollars, you can call your mother in Columbus and tell her all about George's taking you out to dinner. • New York's first commercial human-sperm bank opened Friday with semen samples from eighteen men frozen in a stainless steel tank.

  38. Keep Related Words Together • He noticed a large stain in the rug that was right in the center >>He noticed a large stain right in the center of the rug. • You can call your mother in Columbus and tell her all about George's taking you out to dinner for just two dollars. >> For just two dollars, you can call your mother in Columbus and tell her all about George's taking you out to dinner. • New York's first commercial human-sperm bank opened Friday with semen samples from eighteen men frozen in a stainless steel tank. >> New York's first commercial human- sperm bank opened Friday when semen samples were taken from eighteen men. The samples were then frozen and stored in a stainless steel tank.

  39. Organize to Emphasize • A dog, if you fail to discipline him, becomes a household pest. >>Unless disciplined, a dog becomes a household pest. • This steel is principally used for making razors, because of its hardness >>Because of its hardness, this steel is principally used in making razors. • Quest Software is able to gather performance information on database anomalies and inefficiencies and summarize them into a readable format by non-intrusively collecting your database metrics. • Without any service interruption, Quest can collect your database metrics to detect anomalies and inefficiencies, then provide a clear summary to you.

  40. Composition and Style: What to Avoid • Do not overstate: • “extensive” not “comprehensive” • “robust” not “most powerful” • Avoid fancy words • “use” not “utilize”; • “do” instead of “perform” • “key” not “mission-critical” • Avoid the use of qualifiers • Rather, very, little, pretty

  41. Composition and Style: What to Avoid • Patterns of redundancy As Microsoft plans to release its first major server platform since Windows Server 2003, many enterprises are searching for information on just what Windows Server 2008 will offer.  As Microsoft’s ISV partner of the year for 2007, Quest works very closely with Microsoft to understand exactly what technology they’re providing.  In this way, we ensure that we will continue to provide the enhanced capabilities our customers need.   If you’re wondering what Windows Server 2008 includes regarding new technical, security, management, and administrative features designed to increase server reliability and flexibility, download the Microsoft Active Directory Backup and Recovery in Windows Server 2008whitepaper.

  42. Composition and Style: What to Avoid • Patterns of redundancy As Microsoft plans to release its first major server platform since Windows Server 2003, many enterprises are searching for information on just what Windows Server 2008 will offer.  As Microsoft’s ISV partner of the year for 2007, Quest works very closely with Microsoft to understand exactly what technology they’re providing.  In this way, we ensure that we will continue to provide the enhanced capabilities our customers need.   If you’re wondering what Windows Server 2008 includes regarding new technical, security, management, and administrative features designed to increase server reliability and flexibility, download the Microsoft Active Directory Backup and Recovery in Windows Server 2008whitepaper. In 2008, Microsoft plans to release Windows Server 2008, its first major server platform since Windows Server 2003. What will it offer? And will it provide adequate recovery for Active Directory? Get the answers to these questions in our new white paper, “Microsoft Active Directory Backup and Recovery in Windows Server 2008.”

  43. Finishing Up • Be deliberate. • Take your time. • Keep weeding out words • Above all, be clear • Think speed bumps

  44. Finishing Up: Exercise in Clarity • “Developers are expensive resources to spend too much time with production application support, in addition to the fact that the business experiences potential opportunity loss due to derailed development projects.”Huh????

  45. Finishing Up: Exercise in Clarity • Developers are expensive resources to spend too much time with production application support, in addition to the fact that the business experiences potential opportunity loss due to derailed development projects. • Development resources are too costly to use for production application support. Plus, the business might suffer if revenue-driving development projects are derailed due to this misuse of resources.

  46. Parting Shot • “There is … no infallible guide to good writing, no assurance that a person who thinks clearly will be able to write clearly, no inflexible rule by which writers may shape their course. Writers will often find themselves steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.”

  47. Questions and Comments?Read “Elements of Style” online at:http://orwell.ru/library/others/style/index.htm

  48. Appendix: Before and AfterBeforeSince the database is at the core of today’s mission-critical applications, it is essential to an organization’s success that it is available and performing as well as possible. DB2 LUW is at the heart of many mission critical applications and with that comes high level of expectation that the database remain available and performing well under many types of conditions. To prevent database downtime requires that data be collected about the database and the associated tiers. AfterDB2 LUW drives many mission-critical applications, so it must be available 24X7 and perform well under all conditions. To ensure this, you need the tools to easily collect, view and act on detailed data about the database and the associated application tiers.

  49. Appendix: Before and AfterBeforeSQL Server DBAs are often faced with making changes to their SQL Server database environment.  These changes can be driven by a number of different factors: changes to the application the database is supporting; configuration changes to improve database performance; business-related changes due to data retention requirements, data security issues; or other internal and external initiatives.  What makes managing change even more daunting is that changes in one area of the database could affect changes in another area. AfterSQL Server DBAs must often make changes to their SQL Server database environments. These changes can be driven by: • Enhancements to the application the database is supporting • Configuration adjustments to improve database performance• Business-related mandates for data retention • Data security issues Managing change can be daunting because changes in one area of the database could affect changes elsewhere.

  50. Appendix: Before and AfterBeforeOf the many advantages of using SQL Server to support business-critical applications, performance, manageability and ease of use are viewed as the most important from the perspective of a SQL Server professional. While SQL Server is arguably one of the easiest database platforms to work with, there are some common oversights and mistakes that SQL Server professionals often make – which can have a profound effect on how the database ultimately performs. AfterYou rely on SQL Server’s performance, manageability and ease of use to support your business-critical applications. But it’s also easy to make common mistakes that can undermine the integrity of your database