February 2003
Issue 2
Volume 8

In This Issue
Customer Service--Fast Talkers
Free Photos for Your Project
Grammar Trap: Pique vs. Peak

Customer Service--Fast Talkers

You've answered the phone, and the caller at the other end is talking so fast you can hardly capture what's being said. How do you handle that in a diplomatic way?

Your first inclination may be to say to the fast talker, "You know, I'm unable to write as fast as you can talk." Well, that may be true, but there are more subtle ways to get your point across.

  • Let the caller know "you" didn't catch all the information, and ask if he or she would repeat the information you missed.
  • Verify some spelling. This will slow the caller down and give you another chance to catch what you missed.
  • Speak slowly and calmly, yourself. Generally, the caller will slow down, too, and will imitate your telephone manner.
  • Above all, be polite, and let your caller feel a smile in your voice.

Paula Dillard

Free Photos for Your Project

Working on that upcoming PowerPoint presentation and need a shot of the Washington monument? On deadline for a Web site and need a photograph of a cantaloupe? What can you do?

Try the Web. There are several sites offering photographs that are in the public domain. What that means is that they are copyright free and open for public use. Below are three sites that contain public domain photographs that could be of use to you.

USDA On Line Photography Center


Includes galleries such as:

  • Women, Infants and Children
  • Fall color
  • 4H projects
  • Groceries
  • Washington D.C. landmarks

Grokking the Gimp


Features photographs from the following agencies:

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • NASA

(NOTE: Use the navigation links provided on the page to access the photographs.)

Agricultural Research Service Image Gallery


Offers numerous photographs in the following categories:

  • Lab Research
  • Plants
  • Animals
  • Illustrations
  • Crops
  • Education
  • Insects
  • Fruits/Veggies
  • Field Research

Some Words of Caution

The three sites listed in this article are either directly related to US government agencies or use a collection of photos generated at a government agency. They clearly state that photos on the site are copyright free and open to public domain usage.

Some Web photo collections feature photographs that may not be in the public domain, and I suggest that you use caution when thinking about using photos from these sites.

Many of these sites use statements like, "Use them at your own risk" or "Most of the images in these collections are in the public domain." In other words, the sites using these images don't vouch that all of their photos are copyright free.

Randy Spears

Grammar Trap: Pique vs. Peak

This morning, I received a request from far afield that prompted me to do "pique" and "peak."

"Pique" means to arouse interest, anger, excitement, or some other feeling.

Example: I hope I pique your interest with this month's "Grammar Trap."

"Peak" is a verb with many meanings, but the meanings that trap people, I think, are to reach a maximum or cause to come to a peak.

Example: Interest in suggesting "Grammar Trap" topics will peak when the author offers to pay for good suggestions. (Never going to happen, by the way. All you'll earn is my gratitude.)

So beware of writing "peak your interest"--unless you mean arousing a feeling to the highest point possible. In virtually all cases, I bet you mean "pique."

Thanks to Cary Steinmetz (The Boeing Company) 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.

Archive: "Grammar Traps."

Laura Hoelscher

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