Purdue University Agricultural Communication
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August 2000


Correction: Was It Masthead or Mush-Head?

Maybe it was the author who was mush-headed in my "Masthead Myths" story in the July issue of "On Target."

In that article I answered a question about mastheads. The problem? The question incorrectly referred to the banner across the top of the newsletter as a "masthead." In my eagerness to answer the question, I didn't take the opportunity to clarify the difference between the terms "masthead" and "banner." In her eagerness to move another "On Target" issue "out the door," the editor failed to catch my oversight.

I'm going to set the record straight here and will also see that the Web version of the July article is corrected.

The following definitions are from "Creating Super Newsletters," published by University of Maine Extension.

Masthead: This contains the vital information about the newsletter (purpose/audience of the newsletter; names of the editors, designers, the institution, the printer; volume and issue number; subscription information; date of issue; recycled paper logo; etc.). It usually is set off in a box and appears in the same place in every issue. ("On Target" Editor's Note: This is a good place to put our Equal Opportunity statement.)

Banner: Also called a nameplate, the banner commonly includes the title, tagline, logo and date line of the newsletter. It usually appears at the top of the page and is set off graphically in some way (with rules, a box, etc.)

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Building a User-Centered Web Site

You're used to thinking about your audience before you plan a program or write an article for your newsletter. Don't forget that Web sites have audiences, too. The good ones do, anyway.

Taking the time to understand the audience for your Web site before you build may save your site from extinction. Give your users the content they need and want in an easy-to-use Web site, and they will return the favor by using it. And you will have accomplished your purpose.

Say you've thought carefully about the audience for your Web site, identified several possible target audiences, and settled on one to begin with. Say you also have decided on several objectives you want to accomplish with that target audience and even have your contents sketched out.

If you're really serious about creating a user-centered Web site, there's more you should do.

You have to get past your own biases towards the content of your site. Familiarity can blind you to what your site looks like and how it works from your users' points of view.

The people you want to use your site are the best experts to help you assess its value and to improve it. Try what's called "participatory design." Invite your intended audience to be involved in the Web-site-development process.

What you learn about your target audience through participatory design will help you design paths and shortcuts that work. What you learn will be well worth the time you take to do it right.

Next month I'll take a look at some ways to tap into one of your Web site's greatest resources--its users.

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Publisher Gets Tested on the Web

In "Newsletters Made Easier with Publisher" (June "On Target"), I talked about Microsoft Publisher (MP), which is on most of the updated computers available from AgIS. I discussed the availability of artwork and how MP makes it easier to produce professional-looking newsletters.

Also in that article, I noted that Web publishing with that program is still an issue that is up in the air.

Well, I am not ready to set that issue into concrete, but I do have more to add. I've produced two Web sites with MP: <http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/droughtwatch/index.html> and <http://www.extension.purdue.edu/isignews/index.html>. Check them out, if you're interested.

Also, working with Phillip Tocco, a new ANR educator in DeKalb County, I have explored MP still more.

In Publisher you can create a newsletter for the Web or for paper, two very different formats. Big deal, right? But the kicker is that MP has a function to convert a document from a Web page to a hard-copy format and vice versa.

Alas, I think there's a problem with that. I recently produced a Web page for my professional organization and tried to convert the document to a hard-copy newsletter. That wasn't as easy as you might think with the point and click process. (I won't cover the technical details here. Call me or email me on that.)

In the end, a student had to put several hours into the conversion. Some copy was hidden in the electronic hinterland of the file, so we had to be very careful to be sure that everything was there. In some ways, it might have been easier to start over.

Tocco thinks it's easier to convert from a hard-copy format to a Web format. And, in playing with a few samples, I think he's right.

Tell me your "real-life" stories about working with MP or about producing newsletters, no matter what system you use, and I'll share them with "On Target" readers.

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How Can This Sentence Be Saved?

This is the first in a recurring series that will feature problematic sentences I've come across in my editing and teaching, explanations of what the problems are, and examples of ways to solve the problems.

Those of you who want to test your sentence-diagnosing skills should pause at the "Here's the Sentence" section before proceeding to the next two sections.

Here's the Sentence:

Ever since time began, man has been plagued by weeds.

###WARNING: If you want to test your own diagnostic skills, stop here and start diagnosing.###

Here's the Explanation:

This isn't a fake sentence, honest. It or something very like it appeared in one of the first electronic publications put out by the USDA. I remember thinking back then that I wouldn't accept it in a paper from one of my first-year composition students. (I guess this was a case of the excitement of a new medium overwhelming the crafting of the message.)

But on to why the sentence needs saving.

First: "Ever since time began" is awfully sweeping and general. When did time begin, exactly? Think at least twice before using any phrase that moves, full-blown, from your brain to your page or screen.

Second: Some people (yours truly among them) would be bothered by the unnecessary gender specificity of "man."

Third: Somehow I doubt that weeds were much of a problem before we hit upon the notion that some plants are useful.

Fourth: Many anthropologists hypothesize that women were the first to cultivate plants, so there.

Here's a Solution:

Humans have been plagued by weeds for as long as they have been pleased by useful plants.

This isn't the only solution, of course, or even the best, but it takes care of the problems I see and has that "plagued/pleased/plants" alliteration going for it, too.

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Grammar Trap: Regardless vs. Irregardless

Deciding when to use "regardless" and when to use "irregardless" is simple. Use the former. Don't use the latter.

Why?

"Regardless" is standard usage for despite or in spite of something.

Examples: We decided to go ahead with our plans regardless of the risks involved. The project was a success regardless of the mistake I made.

"Irregardless," on the other hand, is nonstandard usage for "regardless." It's a "word" that educated people should avoid in their writing and speaking.

Explanation: People mistakenly stick the negating prefix "ir" on "regardless" because it's there in words like "irregular," "irresponsible," and "irrespective." But, unlike those words, "regardless" doesn't need "ir" because it already has the negating suffix "less."

For more on prefixes and suffixes, see next month's "Grammar Trap."

Thanks to Steve Engleking, LaGrange County, for suggesting this topic.

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

Visit the Grammar Traps Web site for past Grammar Traps.

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