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Wolverine would like to compliment you on your use of the term “complement”

Here’s a quick writing tip along the lines of last week’s discreet/discrete posting. We often see compliment and complement switched up, most recently in a review of the new X-Men Origins: Wolverine video game on the IGN website. (Okay, so the review was published April 30. We’re behind in our reading.)

We note this not only to remind you that even great sites such as IGN can occasionally get confused about grammar, but as a trick to include a photo of Wolverine in this post. (Hey, you try to come up with a cool image that represents homophone confusion.)

We’d like to believe everyone knows what a compliment is: to say something nice to someone. Compliment can be a noun or verb. Here’s a fine way to compliment Wolverine:

“Gee, Wolverine, what wonderfully shiny claws you have. To you get them professionally polished?”

Meanwhile, complement, in this usage, is something that, when added to another quality, makes something complete or whole:

“Wolverine, your unbridled aggression is the perfect complement to Cyclops’ cool reserve on the X-Men team.”

Complement can also mean the quantity or number needed to make something whole: “The addition of Wolverine gave the X-Men a full complement of mutant superheroes.”

Spell check is not your friend: discreet vs. discrete

spHere’s the first appearance of another new segment at the blog: Spell check is not your friend.

Sure, spell check can be a useful utility. But it is not necessarily your friend. Because as soon as you start to rely too much on your spell checker, it will toss you under the bus.

That’s because spell checkers do a fine job of recognizing words from non-words, but they’re still a long way (mostly) from knowing whether you’re using the right word.

Today’s case in point: the homophones discreet and discrete. With growing regularity, we’re seeing writers using discrete when they mean to use discreet. (We almost never see it the other way around.)

Discreet means “prudent” or “tactful” — many people also use it to mean “subtle,” which we suppose is okay. Discrete, however, means “distinct or “separate.” For example… (more…)

The new wave of movie sequels: how will we ever make sense of “Fast & Furious” or “The Final Destination?”

Fast & Furious movie poster

At the blog, our bread and butter is providing important writing tips. But we like to take time out on occasion to examine other issues regarding writing and communication.

As big movie buffs, we’re amused by the lengths to which Hollywood is willing to go in order to suck a few more dollars out of your pocket.

The latest interesting trend is in how studios are titlting their film sequels, with no consideration to how much that might confuse the audience.

The prime example, perhaps the most oddly-titled sequel ever, is Fast & Furious, which hit theaters earlier this spring. It’s the third sequel to 2001’s The Fast and the Furious.

Joining the Furious bandwagon, albeit in a sort-of reversal, is the horror film The Final Destination, which is due out this fall. It’s also the fourth in a series that began in 2000 with a film simply titled Final Destination. (more…)

The Best Writing Tip Ever: “Have went,” NEVER. “Have gone,” sure.

Tom Petty HAS GONE to the theater. The Heartbreakers HAVE GONE to the theater. (Now maybe Petty SHOULD GO for a haircut and a shave.)

Tom Petty HAS GONE to the theater. The Heartbreakers HAVE GONE to the theater. (Now maybe Petty SHOULD GO for a haircut and shave.)

We’re going with the assumption that virtually anyone reading this blog already knows this, but maybe we shouldn’t: there is no such phrase as “have went.” Not ever. Never, ever, ever.

We bring this up because we recently “officially” joined Twitter (shameless plug: click here to follow us on Twitter), and one of our followers claims to have three undergraduate degrees. He further claims to be working on a postgraduate one.

We have no reason to doubt these claims, yet he recently “tweeted” that a certain talk show host’s rating “have went up” in recent days.

Ouch. Total fail, man.

Presumably this particular grammatical issue hasn’t hurt him so far — he’s apparently well-educated and always well-spoken (well, at least until now). But maybe it has.

Maybe writing “have went” cost him a fellowship here or a promotion there. He’ll never know. An employer just passed him by, not knowing he’s a very bright guy making one very bad grammatical error.

For the record, it’s “I went to the store” or “I have gone to the store,” and so on. You never say “I should have went to her birthday party.” You should have gone.

(Speaking of which, you really should have gone to her birthday party. What, were you too cheap to buy a present?)

As usual, we won’t bore you with the English 101 details. Just understand that “have” and “went” should never be adjacent. (And next time, go to the party!)

More on resume basics: one thing you need to know to get the job

Resumes seem so simple — but they’re not. Not the good ones, anyway. Not the ones that actually lead to job offers.

The last time we talked about resumes (read it here), we talked about how a resume is a marketing document (it’s marketing you, of course) and what contact information to include.

This time, we at want to address another resume tip that makes all the difference and yet very few people follow it. Here it is:

Instead of having a single, universal resume and using it every time you apply for a job, you should tailor your resume every time to the job you’re after.

Listing ALL of your experience -- at a burger joint, for example -- might actually work against you on a resume.     (And you definitely won't get an interview if you admit you're Lindsay Lohan.)

Listing ALL of your experience -- at a burger joint, for example -- might actually work against you on a resume. (And you definitely won't get an interview if you admit you're Lindsay Lohan.)

Isn’t that more work? Sure it is. But it’s worth it: tailoring your resume will exponentionally improve your chances of getting an interview.

How do you tailor your resume to a specific job? There are many ways, but they include:

  • Highlight the aspects of your experience that fit the job’s needs.
  • Omit (or at least, downplay) aspects of your experience that are irrelevant to the job or serve no useful purpose.
  • Relate your experience in the context of the posted job qualifications for that position. You want to show a high degree of similarity between who you are and who they’re looking to hire. Makes sense, right?

Employers don’t care what fast-food jobs you worked in high school or where you tended bar during college, unless there are skill sets specific to those positions that help qualify you for the position you want.

Even then, consider omitting them if you’ve had similar experience since then at a more professional level. Listing too much low-level work experience can actually work against you in a resume — a topic we’ll expand on in the future.

Informal doesn’t always mean unprofessional

…just as “formal” doesn’t always mean professional. Here’s what we mean:

Your job as a writer is to service the reader — whoever the particular reader is in that particular instance.

Nice shirt, nice tie, but decidedly unprofessional.

Nice shirt, nice tie, but decidedly unprofessional.

For some readers, your thoughts will be best expressed through very clinical, technical wording — very formal, if you will. Others might benefit more from a light, conversational tone — quite informal, if you will.

Just because your tone is informal doesn’t make it unprofessional. We could have written this post, for example, with no contractions — “Here is” and “does not,” for example.

While that’s more formal, it doesn’t make the post easier to read. Contractions are grammatically correct and do a fine job of lightening your writing’s tone.

An informal tone is not appropriate for all occasions, of course. And don’t use informality as an excuse to be unprofessional — but that’s a discussion for another day.

The Best Writing Tip Ever: Speaking of dos and don’ts — what’s the deal with apostrophes?

Since we used the phrase “dos and don’ts” in the last post, we thought it might be a good time to quickly address that phrase.

My, that's a cute apostrophe.

My, that's a cute apostrophe.

Sometimes in writing, you have to wrestle over the choices of going with what’s technically correct versus what looks best. Again, this depends on your audience and what you’re looking to accomplish.

For the most part, it’s best to err to the side of proper grammar. That’s why we use “dos and don’ts.” Yes, “dos” looks weird. It looks like it the Spanish word for two, pronounced like “dose,” instead of what it is, which is the plural for do, which sounds like “dooze.”

In general, you should never use an apostrophe to make something plural. Even people who would never write “we have banana’s for sale” will still add an apostrophe to some plural acronyms: DVD’s, TV’s, etc. The apostrophe is not needed. “DVDs” and “TVs” is correct.

If they look strange, look at it this way: if we can get everyone to start writing them correctly, they won’t look strange anymore!

Dos and Dont’s: A few critical resume basics you might not know

June 2, 2009  |  Posted in: Resumes and Cover Letters  |  Tags: , , , , ,   |  

We’ve been getting a little more resume work than usual lately, which is not surprising given the economy.

The right resume is the key to getting the interview.

The right resume is the key to getting the interview.

What is surprising, however, is how few people understand even the very basics about what makes an effective resume. We often see resumes from professionals with 20 years of experience and several degrees, yet they have no clue how to market themselves in their resumes.

That’s what a resume is: a marketing document. It is not simply a list of the stuff you’ve done and the honors you’ve achieved. It’s the most important thing to remember.

We’ll get into some more specifics in later posts, but I promised you a few important basics for now. Here you go:

DO include your email address in your resume. This one might seem obvious, but we still see quite a few resumes that omit this.

DO make sure your email address sounds professional. If you’re still using, that reflects poorly. Get a new, free email (from Google, MSN, or others).

DON’T include contact information about Facebook or Twitter. It will just be confusing to non tech-savvy employers, and you never know how they’ll interpret what they find if they do look you up.

However, DO make sure that if you’re looking for a job and you do use Facebook or Twitter, there’s nothing on either that reflects badly on you. If a hiring manager simply Googles your name, your Facebook or Twitter often will come up. So will blog posts and comments, so keep that in mind too.

We’re out of time today, but we have tons more to tell you about resumes. Keep checking back to the We Write For You blog to learn more.

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