Agricultural Communications, Purdue University
An electronic newsletter with communication tips and information

March 1998

We're Having Technical Difficulties!

We've recently learned that "On Target" looks "funny" to some of the people who receive it. Some people are apparently missing hard returns and thus not seeing all of the text on their screens. Other people get what looks like too many hard returns. Still others have no problems with the on-screen appearance of "On Target," but run into problems when they try to print.

We aren't sure if these are old problems we're just now discovering or new ones. Either way, we're doing our darnedest to solve them. But--and this shouldn't surprise anyone--there doesn't seem to be an easy solution or a single solution that will apply across the entire "On Target" audience.

So, for now, we're asking two things of you. First, if the "On Target" you receive looks weird to you--too few hard returns, too many, whatever--please email Marian Sipes and try to describe the problem. It would also help if you would fax a copy of the printed version to her at 765-496-1117. For recent help rendered in this regard, we'd like to thank Jerry Nelson (Knox Co.), Scott Rumble (Tippecanoe Co.), and Nancy Tucker (Benton Co.).

Second, please bear with us as we try to tackle the problem. It may take us several months and several issues of "On Target," but we'll continue working to make it as accessible as possible.

The Ag Comm "On Target" Team

Super Newsletters Part IV(b): Great Graphics

(The following is adapted from: "Creating Super Newsletters: A Training Curriculum for Cooperative Extension Staff, Module 4," University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service, June 1997.)

It's challenging to find or create graphics that do all of the things you hope to accomplish. The following checklist can help you determine if your graphics are appropriate.

Checklist for Good Graphics

Use these questions to evaluate each graphic element that you use (or plan to use) in a newsletter.

Ag Comm staff find that the subject of graphics is one of the most popular topics of discussion during Newsletter Training. For that reason, we'll continue the topic of graphics next month.

Four Myths About Presentations

Myths about effective delivery from the podium include the belief that it is necessary to speak very slowly so that you will be understood. To the audience, this can be "like watching grass grow," say communication experts Ken Matejka and Diane P. Ramos. They also dispel these other myths about making presentations:

Myth #1. Keep the flow smooth and easy. This is a yawner. Vary the pace of your presentations--you need to keep your audience's attention. Remember, they are used to zapping uninteresting TV programming with a remote control.

Myth #2. Keep those hands still. You'll look stiff and awkward with both arms glued to your side, and sloppy with both hands shoved into your pockets. Use your hands to provide natural emphasis (but don't overdo it).

Myth #3. Load up your presentation with visual aids and multimedia. In many cases these aren't necessary. Ask yourself if these make the presentation more fluid and will better serve to hold the audience's interest.

Myth #4. Turn out all lights when you're ready to show slides or use the overhead projector. Say good-night, Gracie.

(This article was taken from "The Working Communicator" and is used by permission of Lawrence Ragan Communications, Inc.)

Risk Communication: Take Steps to Mitigate Outrage

People's outrage responses to news that contains a message about risk will play a bigger role in public reaction than the scientific information, according to "Reporting on Risk, A Journalist's Handbook on Environmental Risk Assessment," by Michael A. Kamrin, Dolores J. Katz, and Martha L. Walter.

The book explains that the term "outrage" was coined by Dr. Peter Sandman, Professor of Environmental Journalism at Rutgers University, to refer to "the level of public anger and fear about an environmental risk issue." We should remember that outrage is based on valid psychological needs that must be recognized and met before a mutually acceptable solution can be found.

How you structure your communication about an event or issue may mitigate some outrage, and thus help a community or group of people reach a solution or resolve an issue.

Research on outrage and risk perception may be helpful whether you are talking about:

If you find yourself covering these topics, consider some risk communication guidelines. You can provide information through discussion and the news media to help your audience understand complicated issues and take more control of the risk associated with those issues. The aim is not to diminish legitimate concerns or heighten illegitimate ones, but to encourage constructive action.

The following pointers are adapted from "Reporting on Risk."

In short, help your audience evaluate the issues and/or risks.

If you would like a copy of "Reporting On Risk," contact me by email (below), or call 765-494-8410. If we have enough interest, we can order books at the group rate. In that case, your cost would be $5 for the 112-page booklet.

Complementary vs. Complimentary

Say there's a new store opening in town, and the first 10 customers are going to receive free tickets to a basketball game. Are they "complementary" tickets or "complimentary" ones? (I used to get this one wrong until someone set me straight just a few years ago.)

"Complementary" means to fill out, complete, or make perfect. Jack Sprat and his wife were complementary because, together, "they licked the platter clean."


"Complimentary" means to express praise--and it also means to give away as a courtesy.


If there's a grammar (or usage) trap you'd like me to discuss or you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one, please let me know.

We want to hear from you. Do you have a communication question? Do you have a comment on this issue of "On Target"? If so, please e-mail any of our writers or On Target's managing editor, Kevin Smith.

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