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Elaine Swift Logo Putting your ideas into words
Issue five February 2008


Welcome to the my first newsletter of 2008.

Christmas seems a dim and distant memory but one of my presents is still keeping me busy.   It’s my Nintendo DS with the Brain Training and Word Coach software. 

I play them religiously every day to try and coax my poor old brain into action. Brain Training is great fun. I’ve managed to get my brain age down from, er 80 (!) to a spring chicken-like 23. It’s even helping me get over my number nausea.  Well, almost.

I love Word Coach.  As well as learning new words I’m also reacquainting myself with the correct meaning of others.

This issue's hints and tips are based on words that really irritate me. They focus on the word around, and Americanisation of UK English.

I hope you find them useful.


In this issue



Hints & Tips

Around and around in circles

'The theory is based around.' 'Let’s focus our efforts around.' 'The report centres around.' These three misuses of around are real bug bears and they’re becoming so common place. I’ve seen them in respected broadsheets and magazines.  I’ve even heard them, shock horror, on the BBC.


It only takes a second’s thought to get them right.  A base is a thing on which something stands or rests: a cup on a saucer for instance.  You wouldn’t but your cup around the saucer – that would just be silly. So you base something on, not around.

Focus is even easier.  Just imagine trying to focus your eyes around an object.  You’d go dizzy.  Then you’d fall over.  It’s much easier (and safer) to focus on something.

Centre is the easiest of all to get right.  Centre is the place where something is concentrated. It's the heart of something: a focus. Therefore it's always centre on.


Mind your Zs and Ss

This is not an anti-American rant or a plea for patriotism.  It’s a just another bug-bear: American spelling in British writing. I just can’t bear Zs instead of Ss or color when it should be colour.


I blame Microsoft for setting Word’s default to American spelling, but they do give us the option to change it.

So if you haven’t done already, please do this one little thing for me and help to keep my blood pressure steady. 

*Go to Programs in your Start menu and select Microsoft Office.  Then go to Microsoft Office Tools.

On the Enabled Languages tab, select the languages to use for editing documents from the Available Languages list, and then click Add.

Phew.  That’s better.

*This might vary depending on which version of Windows you use.



Proof of the Pudding

"Elaine has proved an invaluable partner in driving my communication strategy.  Her copywriting skills are undoubtedly strong, but what is most impressive is the way that she really lives the project and thoroughly enjoys helping deliver results.

I have had great value in all areas of my website and newsletter because Elaine embodies the principle of going the extra mile.  I look forward to our ongoing partnership."

Simon Alldridge,

MD Ashtead Performance Group

I have been extremely impressed by Elaine's writing, attention to detail and determination to give me exactly what I was looking for.She has written in exactly the tone I was looking for and has been an integral part of creating our brand and culture.

Where I took three sentences to say what I wanted, Elaine succinctly adapted this to one short sentence. She has been fantastic at working to deadlines- especially when I had her working over Christmas! I would have no hesitation in recommending Elaine to anybody looking for a copywriter.

Busting The Jargon

Take a look at this sent out by a manager to his team:

‘We’re leveraging our assets and establishing strategic alliances to create a robust knowledge centre – one with a customer-ruled business structure using market-leading technologies to maximise our human systems.’ Human systems?

It’s an obvious attempt by the manager to appear smart.  However, using this kind of language can produce the opposite effect.  If the audience has difficulty interpreting it, not only is the message less convincing; the author is seen to be less intelligent.

The findings from a survey conducted by a UK-based consulting firm are disturbing. Apparently 56 % of employees thought their managers and supervisors didn’t communicate clearly with them and often used incomprehensible language that confused the messages.

A book I’ve just read suggests a way to avoid these problems. Before sending out written communications, ask colleagues not directly involved with the subject to read them and give you their feedback.

The Last Word
goes to Mark Twain from a letter he wrote to a young friend:

“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words, and brief sentences.  That is the way to write English.  It is the modern way and the best way.  Stick to it.”



Know what you want to say, but can't find the right words?

Writing copy for your own business isn’t easy.  You’re too close to it for a start. You can overlook some really good things; simply because they’re second nature to you.  Hopefully, the main reason is that you are just too busy running a successful business. The copy for that website or newsletter that you know you need somehow always gets put off.  It could just be that you hate writing …

However, I LOVE writing! I love working with words: making them flow; making them sparkle.   So why not let me bring some flow and sparkle to your copy?  My services include copywriting for:

  • websites
  • newsletters
  • direct mail
  • rewriting
  • copy evaluations
  • proofreading

If you’d like to talk to me about a project or just to find out if I can help you, drop me an email: elaine@elaineswift.co.uk  or give me a call: 0208 390 8429 / 07963 722 330.


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