March 2003
Issue 3
Volume 8


In This Issue
Customer Service: Voice Mail Greetings
If Name Calling's Required, Watch Your Latin
Grammar Trap: Peek vs. Peak

Customer Service--Voice Mail Greetings

What does it take to make an effective voice mail greeting? It's not an easy task. An effective greeting has to include details to assist the caller, sound professional, and be brief, too.

An effective voice mail greeting should include:
  • Your name,
  • Your department and/or unit,
  • The date,
  • When you will return to your office,
  • A request that the caller leave a message,
  • When the caller can expect a return call,
  • An alternative in case assistance is needed immediately, and
  • A courteous ending.
A detailed but concise message might go something like this:

"This is Paula Dillard, Coordinator of the Ag Communication Media Distribution Center. Today is Monday, December 5th. I'm in the office today, but I'm unable to take your call at this time.

Please leave your name, phone number, and a brief message, and I'll return your call this afternoon. If you need to speak to someone right away, press '0' to reach my assistant.

Thank you."

Ideally, you should update your message daily. And you should certainly update it when you are going to be out of the office for an extended period of time. In those cases, it's especially important to indicate the day and date when you will return.

Paula Dillard

If Name Calling's Required, Watch Your Latin

What's the efficacy rate of (+)-2- 4,5-dihydro-4-methyl-4-(1-methylethyl)-5-oxo-1H-imidazol-2-y1|-5-ethyl-3-pyridinecarboxylic acid on Amaranthus retroflexus in Zea mays?

Who knows--it all sounds Greek to me. Or is it Latin?

In the alphabet soup world of plant and animal agriculture, everything has a set of names. There's the "scientific" name, the "common" name, the "chemical" name, and, in some cases, even the "trade" name. Effective communicators should know how and when to use each one.

The "scientific" name is the Latin nomenclature for a plant, animal, or pathogen. It comprises the living thing's genus and species. For instance, the Latin name for tomato is Lycopersicon (genus) esculentum (species), or Lycopersicon esculentum. Genus is capitalized, while species is not. Both are italicized.

The "common" name is what ordinary people call that thing with the funny Latin name. In the case of Lycopersicon esculentum, then, the common name is tomato. Unlike Latin names, which are the same the world over, common names can vary from country to country, state to state, and, sometimes even from one end of Indiana to another. One farmer's cress-leaf groundsel might be another's butterweed. To each his own.

"Chemical" and "trade" names usually come into play when referring to agricultural products, such as herbicides. Chemical names describe the molecular makeup; trade names the catchy monikers corporate marketing departments slap on the strong brew to appeal to consumers. You wouldn't walk into a farm supply store and say, "Give me a jug of N-(phosphononethyl) glycine." Instead, you'd declare, "I'm here to pick up some Roundup."

Incidentally, chemical products also are known by their active ingredients, or common names. Roundup's common name is glyphosate.

So there you have it. The better you're able to play the "name game," the better you'll be at reaching your audience.

By the way, there's a layperson's way of asking the question that began this story. Translated, it means: How effective is Pursuit herbicide on pigweed in corn?

If that still leaves you in the dark, we know some weed scientists in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology who'd love to take your call

Steve Leer

Grammar Trap: Peek vs. Peak

Last month's "Pique vs. Peak" prompted a request to add "peek" to the "Grammar Trap" hopper.

All three are homophones. That is, they're words that sound the same but have different spellings and different meanings. The fact that they sound the same leads many people to use the wrong word in writing.

In the case of these three homophones, people seem to favor writing "peak" regardless of what they mean.

"Peek" means to look or glance briefly.
Example: He took a peek at the present before she wrapped it.

As I wrote in February, "peak" means to reach a maximum or cause to come to a peak.
Example: Interest in college basketball peaks in March.

Tip: Think at least twice before you use "peak" as a verb. There's a good chance you mean "peek" or "pique," instead.

Thanks to Ag Comm colleague Frank Koontz for suggesting this topic. Do you have a grammar (or usage) trap you'd like to see discussed? Do you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one? If so, please let me know.

Visit our archive for past "Grammar Traps."

Laura Hoelscher

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