April 2004
Issue 4
Volume 9

In This Issue

Grumpy Customers Are People, Too
Write It Right, and They Will Publish It
Grammar Trap: Impact vs. Affect (& Alternatives)

Grumpy Customers Are People, Too

Do you have customers or clients who are so grumpy that they are never satisfied with anything? How do you handle them and keep your sanity?

Several years ago I had this grumpy customer. Just to speak his name or hear his voice put me on edge. He kept this stone wall around him, was always on guard, and never smiled. Every time I dealt with him it just ruined my day.

Well, one morning I was feeling especially cheerful when he came in. Without thinking, I smiled a really big smile and in a very cheerful voice said “Good Morning! How in the heck are you, and what can I help you with?”

For an instant he just looked at me, and then the biggest smile appeared. His eyes softened, and Mr. Grumpy changed to Mr. Nice Guy. He shared with me how he was feeling and then told me what he needed. I cheerfully helped him and wished him a good day. From that day on, our customer relationship grew into a cherished friendship.

I learned that no matter how much you dread dealing with grumpy people it can be a win/win situation for both of you if you do the following.

* Be Cheerful
* Be Helpful
* Have a Positive Attitude
* Really Care About Them

So, the next time your grumpy customer or client comes in, surprise him or her with kindness. You will feel a lot better, and your day will be brighter for it.

Paula Dillard [ dillardp@purdue.edu ]

Write It Right, and They Will Publish It

If you send meeting notices and awards stories to local media outlets, there are some things you can do to help ensure the stories make it to the public.

Always—always—include all the pertinent information. When all the information is there, a reporter doesn't have to call you for more, making it more likely that your announcement will get published.

Meeting Announcements

For meeting announcements, include things like time, date, and place, as well as who should attend, whether or not there’s a cost to attend, whether a meal will be served, and any other pertinent information. It’s also a good idea to highlight something that’s going to happen at the event.

Individuals interested in volunteering for the Marshall County 4-H Fair should plan to attend a meeting at 7 p.m. on Feb. 2, in the Purdue University Cooperative Extension office in Marshall County. At that time Randy Dickson, 4-H/Youth Extension educator, will talk about volunteering at the fair. Dickson will accept volunteer registration for the fair at the event and light refreshments will be served. The Purdue Extension office is located in the Marshall County Building at 112. W. Jefferson St. in Plymouth, Ind.

A meeting announcement doesn’t have to be long. For other sample announcements, visit http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/agcomm/agnews/public/, and search for “ag calendar.”

Awards Stories

Awards stories are a different animal. In this case, it's good to include information about the award recipients, such as their hometown, age, years in 4-H (for example), and why they won. Also say when the award was given and who sponsored it. It’s okay to give some history about the award and why it exists. You can also find examples of award stories at the AgComm Web site. This time, search for “award.”


Most newspapers use Associated Press (AP) style. The AP stylebook is available from the Associated Press at http://www.ap.org/. It’s a handy reference when trying to figure out the correct abbreviation for Mississippi or why newspapers seldom put a comma before the last item in a series.

Also keep in mind that every paper has its own style. It doesn’t hurt to read the newspaper and look for some quirks before sending a story. The easier you make it for newspaper staff to read and edit your piece, the more likely it is to get printed.

Kay Hagen [kjh@purdue.edu]

Grammar Trap: Impact vs. Affect (& Alternatives)

Although you see it used as such all the time, “impact” is not a transitive verb. That is, it does not and cannot have an object. That is (again), you can have a tooth that is impacted, but you can’t impact something—at least not while I'm editorially alive and kicking.

Unacceptable Example: Grammar Trap articles impact readers’ understanding of grammar and usage.

Acceptable Examples:

* Grammar Trap articles affect readers’ understanding of grammar and usage.
* Grammar Trap articles influence readers’ understanding of grammar and usage.
* Grammar Trap articles improve readers’ understanding of grammar and usage.
* Grammar Trap articles have an impact on readers’ understanding of grammar and usage.

Get the picture? There are countless ways you can avoid this error.

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 [ email ]

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.

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