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The Write Way

6 May 2005

For Your Convenience


I recently received a missive from my bank, notifying me about changes to my account that have been introduced "for my convenience." 

As I read through the 10-page glossy leaflet that accompanied the 2-page letter, I pondered what my bank could be doing for me. 

Opening another branch to replace the one they closed in my suburb? Adding a couple of extra tellers to the one branch that now serves the entire district so we don't have to wait in queues for so long? Reducing the fees and charges on my accounts?

No, dear reader. Alas and alack, it was none of the above. Do you know what my bank was doing "for my convenience?" Allow me to quote, "At Bank X, our goal is to keep fees at a level which, whilst as low as possible, still allows us to provide our exceptional personal service to you, our merchant customers.

"In order to maintain an excellent service for all our merchant customers, the Bank will introduce a minimum monthly charge of $X, which may affect a small number of merchant customers."

How's that for convenience, eh? More bloody bank fees! And this from a bank that increased its profits by 32% in a six-month period. Gee ... I wonder how they managed that ...

This got me thinking about other changes that have been introduced for the consumer's "convenience." 

There's the frozen fish at the supermarket deli, "thawed for your convenience," that makes me cynically wonder whether this convenience has something to do with not having enough freezers to keep the fish in their frozen state; and the single mail delivery we now get each weekday to encourage us to rent mail boxes that have been built at the post office ... Yep! You guessed it ... "for your convenience." Of course, it's so much more convenient to drive to the shops, find a parking spot, fight through crowds and get down on your hands and knees to open a mailbox that's on the bottom row (aren't they always?) than it is to walk to your front letterbox to check for mail.

When I was a girl (Ahem ... now how many times have I asked you not to roll your eyes like that?) ... Where was I? Oh yes ... When I was a girl, the postman used to deliver letters in the morning and in the afternoon and on Saturdays, plus we had telegram boys who rode up and down the street delivering telegrams twice a day (or more often when someone in the neighbourhood was getting married and then telegrams came thick and fast).

I know for a fact that telegram boys rode up and down the street because I had a crush on one of them when I was in high school. In school holiday times, I used to sit at the lounge-room window mid-morning and mid-afternoon when he was due on his rounds and watch for him to hop off his bike a couple of houses down from our place. (We lived on the top of a hill and most cyclists used to dismount for the last part of the ride). 

I had it worked out to the last second so I could dash out the back door and just happen to be wandering out the front to check for mail as he reached our house. Then I'd look up, all surprised and say something incredibly witty, like, "Oh ... Hi. I didn't see you!"

At which he'd respond with something equally suave like, "G'day."

And that would be it until the next day, when we'd repeat the entire scenario. It wasn't until I met him down the shops one day, quite by accident (no, really and truly by accident this time) that we actually got past our regular dialogue, and I discovered his name (it was Terry, if you must know).

But we never got past the talking stage; he was 15 and I was only 13 and much too young, according to my parents, to be involved with "a boy who has a job." Boys who had jobs had money and could go to the pictures and you know what that means, don't you?

With such dire, unexplained warnings ringing in my ears, Terry and I were destined to always have my front fence or his bicycle between us. 

Ummm ... Maybe that's why the postal service has cut mail deliveries to once a day and has completely cut out telegram deliveries ... to save innocent young girls from boys with jobs!

See? It is for our convenience. Even though it may be low-level convenience or even, in the eyes of some, "anti-convenience."

Yes, you're right, I just made that up. It's amazing what you can do with a bit of gaffer tape and a hyphen isn't it? After we chatted about hyphens last week, a couple of people asked about those words, used as prefixes or suffixes, that sometimes have hyphens and sometimes don't, such as self-made but selfsame.

The American Heritage Dictionary explains:

  Normally, prefixes and suffixes are joined with a second element without a hyphen, unless doing so would double a vowel or triple a consonant: antianxiety, anticrime, antiwar but anti-intellectual; childlike, taillike but bell-like. Even so, many common prefixes, such as co-, de-, pre-, pro-, and re-, are added without a hyphen although a double vowel is the result: coordinate, preeminent, reenter.     2

That applies to those of you on the US side of the Pond ... Many of us who look to Old Blighty prefer to whack in the hyphen to avoid clumsy-sounding words like coworker ... Is this someone who works with our bovine friends? Co-worker is much clearer and easier to pronounce, as is re-enter, co-ordinate, pre-eminent etc.

When you sound the prefix separately, it makes sense to set it apart when you write it ... don't you think? 

AHD continues:

  A hyphen is also used when the element following a prefix is capitalized or when the element preceding a suffix is a proper noun: anti-American, America-like.
  The hyphen is usually retained in words that begin with all-, ex- (meaning “former"), half-, quasi- (in adjective constructions), and self-: all-around; ex-governor; half-life but halfhearted, halfpenny, halftone, halfway; quasi-scientific but a quasi success; self-defense but selfhood, selfish, selfless, selfsame.
  Certain homographs require a hyphen to prevent mistakes in pronunciation and meaning: recreation (enjoyment), re-creation (new creation); release (to let go), re-lease (to rent again).

So now you know ... but (shameless plug coming up ... skip this bit if you're easily embarrassed) if you'd like to know more, don't forget my course of writing tutorials. This is an extract from a review by Michael Abrams on Suite101:

"'The pen is mightier than the sword,' or so goes the old saying. Certainly the ability to express oneself in writing is critical. The letters we write, the proposals we submit, even the cards we send--often tell our reader more about us than we realize, by the way we express ourselves on the page.

"In this regard, (Ed note: Er ... make that Write101) is a welcome addition to the Web, offering pages of content relating to the practice of good writing. Its articles are geared as much to the person trying to write an effective business letter as to the professional writer.

" also offers a set of home-study writing tutorials, which I will be reviewing in this article. These are useful, well-written tutorials covering critical aspects of the writing process.

"The first in the series of six tutorials offers an extensive basic overview of the major parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections. (There is a large set of exercises, with answers and, as is true throughout the course, many of the exercises require careful thought.) Careful review of the material in the first tutorial alone should vastly improve most people's confidence in their ability to express themselves in writing.

"The second tutorial deals with vocabulary-how we can choose the words we use to maximum effect. First there is a discussion of the most common ways we "shoot ourselves in the foot" linguistically-pomposity, journalese, euphemism, mixed metaphor, malapropism, spoonerism, oxymoron, colloquialism, idiom, and purple prose. Then, after a consideration of synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms, the tutorial offers an extensive discussion of Latin and Greek roots and prefixes, and their profound influence on English vocabulary."

Read more about what's in the course here: If you feel you'd like a little extra help, you can have me at your beck and call as your personal tutor for a full 12 months ... just scroll to the Tutor Special when you order.

Pun Competition

Thanks to everyone who entered the Pun Competition and then voted for the finalists. And the winner is ... "The Colorado Beetle is a cereal killer" contributed by Maitiu MacCabe from Great Expectations Coaching, Dublin. 

Why not forward this newsletter (in its entirety) to your friends? If you received this from a friend, click to receive your very own copy, all bright and perky every Friday morning:

This week's quiz:

Choose a word from the list that belongs in each group below:

salient, aver, impassive, piquant, equipoise, intrepid, demur, morose, loquacious, raffish

1. affirm, assert, prove, justify

2. fearless, brave, undaunted

3. without feeling, not affected by pain

4. conspicuous, highly relevant, prominent

5. gloomy, sullen

6. low, vulgar, base, tawdry

7. talkative, garrulous

8. agreeably pungent, stimulating

9. to hesitate, raise objections

10. equal distribution of weight; equilibrium

My comments last week about words that suddenly transmogrify into demons, prompted Fred to suggest this, "I would think the nitrogen levels are too high if that word of 4 letters is ("gone") confusing. Nitrous oxide has been know to confuse clear thought ..." (Fred)

Lillie Ammann passed along this great pun site:, and from the same part of the world comes this note from Bill: "I was passing thru Austin Texas on my way home to San Antonio yesterday when I glanced up at a sign on the side of a building that read Well as soon as I got home I logged on and went to the web address and had a great time going thru some really funny or punny puns.  Check it out, I think your readers will enjoy it." (Bill Van Steenburg)

Must be something in the air out San Antonio way that makes people think of puns at this time of year!

And here are some thoughts to ponder that Simon found on his travels through cyberspace ...

An intellectual snob is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger.

Boxing is like a ballet, except there's no music, no choreography and the dancers hit each other.

Although I can accept talking scarecrows, lions and great wizards of emerald cities, I find it hard to believe there is no paperwork involved when your house lands on a witch.

Last week's quiz:

1. impolite, coarse, genteel, uncultured- GENTEEL

2. waste, management, stewardship, husbandry - WASTE

3. active, inert, vital, moving - INERT

4. innate, acquired, native, inherent - ACQUIRED

5. innocuous, innocent, noxious, inoffensive - NOXIOUS

6. conformist, maverick, renegade, radical - CONFORMIST

7. myopia, shortsightedness, foresight, blindness - FORESIGHT

8. herald, forerunner, follower, precursor - FOLLOWER

9. prepossess, bias, consider, prejudge - CONSIDER

10.exciting, prosaic, mundane, commonplace - EXCITING

Don't forget to give Dr Morgenes and the gang a bit of a helping hand in the Never-Ending Story: (Use the Comments button at the end of the entry to add your contribution.)

Have you made your Mark on the World yet? No? Then stop by our Map of the World and read the messages. (Just click List) and add your mark:  

A Little Something Extra

Here's a Little Something Extra for you if you're studying at the moment ... a guide on how to cite sources according to different Style Guides! 

The first is from the library at the University of Berkeley. It has relevant extracts (in pdf form) from the APA, MLA and Chicago Styles. 

This site details how to cite online sources using various styles. 

And this one from Bournemouth University discusses the British Standards for citing references. 

The University of Southern Queensland has this guide to citing online resources using the Harvard Style and how to cite print and online sources using the Oxford Style. 

No excuses now ... Off you go and finish your assignment!

Word of the weekFoudroyant (adj) Dazzling, flashing; thunderous, noisy, stunning

This comes from the Latin word for "lightning" fulgur, which also gave us the French synonym foudre, as well as foudroyant - literally, "striking with (or like) lightning." (Foudroyant is also used in medicine to describe a disease that strikes with sudden severity.) Maybe your tutor will think your finished essay is foudroyant!

Oxymoron of the week: Athletic scholarship (Aww ... that's not fair!)

Here's a neato Latin phrase that came to mind after I was reminiscing about my Lost Youth: 

Vale, Lacerte! (See you later, Alligator!)

[WAH-lay lah-KER-tay]

And a thought ...

Sum ergo cogito
Is that putting Des-cartes before de-horse?

Kind regards,


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