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June 27, 2007

Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center

Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center provides therapeutic horseback riding to children and adults with disabilities who live in the Puget Sound area. Classes take place in an environment that emphasizes abilities rather than disabilities.

I heard about this wonderful organization from my daughter-in-law, who is deeply involved in supporting the needs of children with disabilities. She is a role model for me, and one of the world's finest women.

I used to love horseback riding, thanks to my mother's encouragement. Now my daughter has a couple of horses and family and friends enjoy riding them. I know what a bond a person can have with a horse. Mine was with a horse named Dixie.

It's exciting to see organizations like Little Bit helping people in the Pacific Northwest. This is how the Little Bit website describes some of the benefits for children with disabilities:

The horse's soothing rhythm, strength, warmth, and three-dimensional movement pattern provides healthy exercise while improving circulation and muscle tone. The discipline associated with working with horses and the social interactions between peers benefit the mind and spirit while raising self-esteem and increasing self-sufficiency through accomplishment. The unconditional love of the horses is proved to reduce anxiety, encourage interaction and offer a haven where riders can feel a sense of empowerment.

Take a moment to visit the site. See the warmth, the vitality, the kindness displayed by staff and children. Kudos to Little Bit!

Stereotyping: Love It or Hate It?

Just Judy

Have you noticed how easy it is to stereotype people? We see them everywhere, at every level of most cultures. Far too many people may be most comfortable when they can put others in neat packages. But life isn’t just about comfort: it’s about growing in strength of character, exploring and learning new ideas and skills, and learning how to function as part of at least one community.

After a varied, colorful life, I began working for myself when I was in my fifties, during the massive layoffs that took place in the 1987-1990 window. I followed with a couple of brief jobs, but yearned to go in a new direction. I wanted to write and learn to use a computer. At my last long-term job, the computer setup had been on a par with using rotary telephones…or the ones where you picked up the receiver and heard, “Number please.”

There was a large age gap between my husband, Jack, and me. He retired in the early 1970s, and we soon discovered that we couldn’t live on his pension. In the meantime, he’d been helping more and more with grocery shopping and cooking. Our shopping sessions at the supermarket sometimes got a little, um, uncomfortable as he challenged my choices of items, based on his criteria.

That said, we came to an agreement: I’d go back to work, and he would handle most of the shopping and cooking. Fantastic! Years later, after I was laid off, everything pointed toward starting my own business. Jack had increasing amounts of medical challenges, and this new way of life gave me flexibility I’d never had when I was an employee of a large company.

In 1990, while thinking about launching a home-based business, I cheerfully realized that—if things went well—I could continue working into my “retirement years.” My business began as a secretarial service, but ended up as an editing and writing service with much of the focus on Web development.

Also in 1990, I discovered I had a rather severe hearing loss. This became a huge issue as I went out to apply for jobs. I felt like a Walking Wrinkle with plugged ears in a world filled with vibrant young people with perfect hearing. After indulging in moments of extreme self pity, I pulled myself together and realized that I had intelligence, experience, motivation, resourcefulness, and ability. What could stop me? Nothing! Watch out, world!

The only way I could get work was to get out in my community and network, and I did this with great enthusiasm for several years. Arising so I could attend 7 A.M. meetings was not my idea of fun, but once I got there I always had a great time, and I loved meeting so many bright, talented people with hope coming out of every pore. In the beginning, all my clients were local.

We converted a bedroom into an office, and as my contacts with the community increased, so did my business. I slowly I moved away from so much networking as I was now needed to serve my clients and my husband. In the midst of all this, the Web came into full bloom, and I jumped into this new culture with both feet. Now there were new and exciting ways to network. And to learn and grow. I began taking online classes to improve my knowledge of the Web. Taking online classes is a way of life for me.

In addition to my business, I was a caregiver for Jack until his death in 2004. We had lots of visitors, and I took time to meet friends for coffee or lunch. I wanted to be productive and resourceful in every area of my life, locally and on the Internet. Easy? Nope. But I hadn’t been raised to expect life to be perfect.

I don’t have a strong concept of retirement; it’s never been that important to me. Would I like to cruise around the world? Live on a houseboat (somewhere where the water is calm and the breezes are tropical)? Travel to New York, London, Paris, Rome, BZ Corner, and Kyoto? Sure. Be able to visit my large and wonderful family and friends with frequency? Absolutely. Will it happen in my lifetime? Time will tell. In the meantime, I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

So, who am I? What am I? A little old deaf widow lady with glasses and tinted hair who took care of her elderly, partially crippled, deaf (yes he was, although he wouldn’t admit it—he insisted that people just needed to speak up!) husband? Is it inappropriate to wear tee shirts and jeans and tops with sequins at my age? What about flip flops? Should I be allowed to sit on the floor and play silly games with my grandchildren, nieces, and nephews? Am I a wacky old broad because every once in a while I dance around the room if I’m especially happy? And what about my being a computer geek at my age? And I just remembered: I’m somewhat dyslexic: does that count?

Are all those things who I am, or what I am? Isn’t it okay for me to just be Judy?

What am I suggesting? The world is flat. If you’re in the habit of stereotyping people in any way, consider changing. It might be difficult and won’t happen overnight, but you’ll get a lot more joy out of life. And you’ll sprinkle lots more stardust.

June 20, 2007

Don't Spell Well?

Skilled at marketing, but not at spelling? How about punctuation? Capitalization? Some of the most brilliant people in history couldn’t spell well, but they didn’t let that stop them from reaching their goals. And today, it doesn’t stop Charles Schwab or writer Stephen J. Cannell. Why should you be different?

Take a look at a list of famous people who had the gift of dyslexia. None of these people let dyslexia stop them from reaching their goals...of being all they could be.

Someone recently sent me an e-mail with an article included. It said:

"I noticed that you have a newsletter, and was wounding if you accepted Articles. If you do not accept articles, please let me know and I will remove you from my list. If you accept articles but only for A certain categories please send me the category, so I can up date my records."

Interesting. Someone who wants to be published writes an introduction full of errors. Here's an excerpt from another letter:

"I am a freelance journalist and author with experience in editind and proof reading documents. Do you care for my online services? If so pl contact."

So what can you do if spelling, punctuation, and capitalization aren't some of your strengths, yet regular writing is a “must”? Try an online dictionary like Merriam-Webster's Dictionary (www.m-w.com). It will also help you out with capitalization.

You can buy a style guide like The Gregg Reference Manual. Or Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage.

If you’re a busy professional who writes to market yourself and your business, but can't get quite the words right, find someone who edits copy (a copyeditor). Sure, it’ll cost something, but why risk opening yourself to ridicule when, in fact, you're very intelligent?

Rather than being embarrassed about your weaknesses in business communications, deal with them. Then focus on your strengths. You can do it!

How to Win the Grammar Game

Are you one of the many bright people who speaks well but has trouble with the mechanics of writing: following those confusing rules concerning spelling, punctuating, capitalizing, etc.? Is a relative, co-worker or editor constantly whipping out a dictionary, style guide, or grammar handbook to point out mistakes in your writing, making you want to slam their fingers in Chapter 6?

If so, have you spent precious time striving to learn who's right? Or is that whose wright?

Does it matter? If you're speaking, perhaps not. If you're writing, it may matter.

The reasons for not writing well are varied, but that doesn't stop people from being good communicators...from creating fantastic stories and plots...from giving life and light and meaning to words.

You are bright. Never forget that....

Now it's time to move forward and have fun writing right!

Yes, I said fun!

Let's find ways to avoid common mistakes in

  • Spelling

  • Pronunciation

  • Capitalization

  • Punctuation

  • Usage

And much more!


A and An: "an historical book" is not idiomatic in American English. Before a pronounced (breathy) h, the indefinite article should be a. A hotel; a historical. Precede a word beginning with a "breathy" h with an a. (6.60CMS14)

Due to or Because of? Due to modifies nouns and is generally used after some form of the verb to be (is, are, was, were, etc.). Jim Wilson's success is due to talent and spunk (due to modifies success, not talent). Because of should modify verbs. Ted resigned because of poor health (because of modifies resigned). (1101GRM7)

Its or It's? This is one of the most common problem areas of our language, probably because possessives almost always use apostrophes. Its is an exception. Its: The possessive form of the pronoun it is never written with an apostrophe, e.g., . . . read the book. "Its title is . . ." or, "What is its value?" It's: contractions of it is and it has. It's time to go. It's been great. (AHD3)

Nauseous or Nauseated? Often used incorrectly, but don't get nauseating about its usage. Nauseous means sickening to observe: disgusting. Nauseated means sick to one's stomach. Pregnant women often experience nausea. When they describe the way they feel, they should say, "I feel nauseated," but if a pregnant woman says, "I feel nauseous," don't correct her grammar: give her a hug and some ginger ale! Timing is everything.

Their, They're, or There? Their: possessive form of the word they, e.g., Their Web site is full of typos. They're: contraction of the words "they" and "are," e.g., They're doing a great job on their Web site. There: at or in that place, e.g., "Now there is a stunning Web site. (AHD3)

Your or you're? This is probably the second most common problem area in our language. You're: contraction of the words "you are," e.g., "You're up for an award. Someone said you're leaving." Your is a possessive form of a personal pronoun, e.g., "I like your Web site. Tom, thanks for giving your time to this effort." Both: "Your knowledge of HTML shows that you're a dedicated designer." (AHD3)

Let's tackle just a few of the most confusing word pairs and groups:

  • Accept: receive.....Except: exclude
  • Adverse: opposed.....Averse: not interested
  • Affect: change, influence.....Effect: (v) to bring about (n) result, impression
  • Appraise: value.....Apprise: inform, notify
  • Lay: to set down, to place or put an item down.....Lie: to recline
  • Principal: first in authority; main participant; amount of a debt less interest.....Principle: basic truth or assumption
  • Ensure: to make sure or certain; guarantee; to protect.....Insure: to take out or issue insurance; to pay or be paid money in the case of loss.....Assure: convince, make sure of something, to give confidence; to declare or promise confidently
  • Their: belonging to; possessive of "they" (another case where a possessive does not have an apostrophe).....There: at, or in that place.....they're: combination of "they are"
  • To: in the direction of; toward.....Too: in addition; as well, also.....Two: more than one; less than three


  • Adjectives are modifiers. They describe nouns & specify size, color, number, etc., e.g., The small "x" in the upper corner of the window is used to exit your file.
  • Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives & other adverbs, e.g., The exhausted secretary screamed loudly as her monitor flickered slowly, then died.
  • Alliteration can give a pleasing sound to a sentence, as long as it's not overdone, e.g., World Wide Web . . . smelly, slimy SCSI . . . resonant ringing.
  • Clauses are groups of words with a subject and predicate. A main clause stands alone as a sentence; a subordinate clause is incomplete and is used with a main clause to express an idea. Main:I will play Tetris, Subordinate: when I have time.
  • Compound nouns usually form the plural by pluralizing the fundamental part of the word, e.g., attorneys general; spelling matches; vice presidents.
  • Conjunctions join words, phrases or clauses. Coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, either, neither, yet, so, so that. (Yet & so are also used as adverbs.) Subordinating conjunctions join two clauses (main and dependent/subordinate): although, because, since, until, while, etc.
  • Metaphors suggest comparison between two different things, e.g., Bill Gates has a heart of gold...His mind is a sharp razor.
  • Mondegreens: Misheard lyrics. Example: "Donuts Make my Brown Eyes Blue" rather than "Don't it Make my Brown Eyes Blue" or "Are you Going to Starve an Old Friend?" instead of "Are you Going to Scarborough Fair?" or "Ham on Rye" rather than Kenny Loggins "I'm alright."

  • Noun  The name of a person, place, thing, quality or action. Nerd, Bellingham, desk, truth, discovery, frustration.
  • Phrases are closely related words with no subject or predicate, and may be used as nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs, e.g., Waiting for Technical Support has kept me at my desk all afternoon (noun). The typing could have been done earlier (verb). The person with the bleary eyes is a computer nerd (adjective). Buy memory chips now, since the price will go up soon (adverb).
  • Predicates are one of two main components of a sentence. They are verbs and the words used to explain the action or condition. They always agree with the Subject, e.g., Choosing the right ISP can be a difficult process.
  • Prepositions show how nouns or pronouns relate to other words in a sentence, e.g., Little Susie rolled the $800 CD ROM into the bathroom; her mother hid behind the shower curtain, praying for self-control.
  • Pronouns are substitutes for nouns, e.g., Judy sat at her computer and opened WordPerfect. Suddenly, her mind went blank, so she contacted Luz Vergara, the WordPerfect WizA>.
  • Proper nouns form their plurals by adding s to the singular or es if the word ends in s, z, ch, sh, or zh, e.g., the Carolinas, Robinsons, Piersons, Judys, Joneses, Savages, Morrises.
  • Similes show a similarity between two things, using "like." Bill Prowell has a mind like a razor...After six hours at the computer, her eyelids felt like lead weights.
  • Subjects, one of two main components of a sentence, are nouns, pronouns, or phrases used as nouns, e.g., Choosing the right ISP can be a difficult process.
  • Verbs make things happen, show action or state of being & also indicate time of action or being, e.g., Jeff's son waved goodbye to the computer repairman (past). I need to shut down Windows (present). You will enjoy learning HTML (future).
  • Voice. Active is preferable to passive to create action and interest. Connie typed the letter (active). The letter was typed by Connie (passive). Sometimes, in certain types of scholarly and scientific documents, passive voice is preferred.

You can win the grammar game!

More artwork from the younger generation

After uploading Emily Burton's artwork, I remembered scanning artwork from two of my grandchildren, Kate and James, who sent me the drawings for Christmas. They live in the Bay Area, and are such vibrant, wonderful children.

June 19, 2007

Emily Burton, artist

Today was a special day, because my niece, Emily Burton, 8, has spent the last five hours with me. She's visiting my brother and sister-in-law, and they graciously gave the two of us some time together. Actually, I must include the cats, Bear and Shadow, because there was a lot of interaction between them and Emily.

Emily lives in Mossyrock, Washington with her parents and nine brothers and sisters. And three dogs: Hershey, Skittles, and Snickers.

We ended up in my office, with Emily drawing a picture of a castle, a princess with a dog on a leash, a treasure chest, and a village house...with a special guardian gate. We did a lot of artistic editing with various software programs and she chose the one you see here to go on my blog. What a delightful evening with a charming young lady...

June 15, 2007

1953. Washington Elementary School: Mrs. Baird's Class

Bellingham, Washington...where I was born and raised. And educated. My brother, David Crook, discovered many elementary class pictures from the 1950s, and he scanned them into digital format.

What you're seeing is but one of many. Let me know if you're looking for a picture of your class. Mostly Washington Grade School and Parkview. Check out the hairstyles...the clothing styles...the footwear. And aren't they the cutest kids?

June 13, 2007

Red Hills Tunnels under Oahu

There's a great article on the history of the Red Hills Tunnels in today's Honolulu Advertiser. Ted Vorfeld, who is an engineer, sent the link, along with some memories of the Red Hills Tunnels (which at one time were classified top secret by the U.S. government):

Uncle Charles Mullin took us through the place many years ago. He was in charge of PWC Pearl Harbor at the time. Then they stored Avgas and had automatically closing doors at each tank in case of fire. You had only about 20 seconds to evacuate the chamber after a horn blared, then the door closed and the chamber was filled with carbon dioxide.

In recent years I worked on a project to repair leaks and coat the bottom of these tanks. Extremely difficult to work on or in them. (To locate and fix leaks in the tanks, they fill them with water and float a raft on the water to work from.) Peter Schubert (one of my former partners at Thermal Engineering) also did a number of projects to fix the fuel lines in the tunnel.

The father of one of my Punahou classmates (Lynn Boerner) was one of the key engineers who helped build the facility: Charlie Boerner. Lynn lives on the Big Island and raises horses. Her mother still is alive and running an organic farm in Hana and we plan to visit her later this year. Charlie died in Hana a few years back when a farm tractor rolled over on him. He was 90+ years old at the time.

Dad claimed the workers were kept virtual prisoners to keep the construction a secret.

The houses in Foster Village all contained a "pipeline easement" in their deeds.

When I worked for the well drilling company that grandad Bill Mullin founded, I learned that the rock in Red Hill is volcanic 'tuff', a kind of compressed cinder material that is relatively soft (compared to basalt anyway).

Here's the link to the Advertiser article, called Red Hill Hides WWII Engineering Wonder.

June 09, 2007

Michelle Burton graduates

I have a huge family, some of which is in Mossyrock, Washington. The Burtons. Well, this was a big week for Michelle Burton, my niece, who graduated high school.

This is a picture of my brother, David Crook, with Michelle, who is his granddaughter. Nice, yes?

A Report on the Pearl Harbor Attack on December 7, 1941

R.H. "Harry" Lodge, Division Overseer of Oahu Sugar Company, tells his story of December 7, 1941. Lodge was also a brilliant photographer, and many of his works fill the publication Waipahu at War, which he compiled. I have a copy of this wonderful publication.

A Report on the Pearl Harbor Attack on December 7, 1941 as it affected my section of Oahu Sugar Co. Ltd...R.H. Lodge

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came as a sudden shock to all of us. How the military could have been so unprepared is one of the puzzling aspects that has not yet been solved. Months prior to the attack, the F.B.I., Army and Navy Intelligence had made studies and census of the plantation workers living on the perimeter of Pearl Harbor which was part of the Waipio Peninsula under my supervision. A few of these workers were Japanese, the balance Filipinos. It appeared obvious that the reason for the study was to plan the evacuation of these people in case of attack. Yet the military, particularly the Navy was caught totally unprepared...

My wife, daughter, and I were having breakfast a few minutes before 8 o'clock when the sound of explosions and the roar of airplanes broke the peace and quiet of that Sunday morning. At the time we were not greatly concerned because there had been many realistic war games prior to this. However we soon realized this was something different. We went outside for a better look. A lone plane buzzed the area and strafed the sugar mill. It had the rising sun on the fuselage. My wife dashed in the house and turned on the radio in time to hear the announcer repeat several times that we were under attack. About this time there were several explosions in the cane field in front of our house which later proved to be exploding shells from our own guns. A sudden blast shook the house as shell blew a hole in the paved road back of us, (in front of Fleener's) and showered our house with gravel. Our dog was hit by a piece of shrapnel.

The phone rang and I was told to evacuate all the employees living in the Pearl Harbor area. After locating a couple of truck drivers, we took the old bus used by the Oahu Sugar Co. athletic teams, and a labor truck and hurried to the Waipio peninsula with me leading the parade in my car. The plantation road follows the shore line and Japanese planes were coming in waves, crossing directly over us and blasting away at shipping and installations on Ford Island and Pearl Harbor. Several bursts of machine gun bullets sprayed the road just ahead of my car. The air was thick with shrapnel but by some miracle nobody was hit although all three vehicles had a few dents. With the help of my water luna, E.M. Faye, we rounded up the men with some difficulty as many had taken cover in the cane fields.

Once the men were evacuated I took shelter under one of the many old keawe trees that leaned out over the shore line. By this time it appeared that every battleship, cruiser and destroyer was either afire, exploding or already on the bottom with their superstructure leaning at a crazy angle above water. Great columns of black smoke belched upwards from both warships and shore installations, and a row of planes parked on Ford Island blazed in a holocaust of flaming gasoline as the attacking planes caught them like sitting ducks. The noise of exploding bombs and gunfire was deafening.

The battleship Nevada which was still afloat passed a few hundred yards in front of me heading for the Harbor mouth. When almost opposite, it was hit by a torpedo carried under the fuselage of one of the attacking planes. There was a terrific blast which blew a hole in the bow of the ship big enough to drive a car through. Simultaneously several bombs appeared to hit the deck, and the great battleship began to sink.

To show how unprepared the navy was, there was not one commissioned officer aboard. The ranking sailor on the Nevada was a chief Petty Officer who immediately beached the ship in comparatively shallow water. She settled on the bottom with the decks awash. This was the first ship to be salvaged in the weeks following the attack.

Shortly after this incident, a Japanese plane was hit by gunfire and came crashing through a gnarled old keawe tree not far from where I crouched. The pilot was literally torn to fragments. This was the only plane I saw shot down in this area.

The men returned to work on December 11th. and we gradually resumed normal operations. There was no great damage to my section of the plantation but for a long time we were locating unexploded shells in the cane fields. Some time after the attack I found an unexploded bomb on the edge of the cane field bordering Pearl Harbor. I called one of my irrigators and told him to guard it until I returned with a naval officer from a nearby installation. He was not to handle it and under no circumstances allow anyone else to touch it. I was about ten minutes getting back with the officer. As we rounded the corner of the cane field, my irrigator was hefting the weight of the bomb in his two hands. When he saw us, he hurriedly dropped it. Fortunately this was one of those times when the bomb did not explode.

In conclusion it should be stated that there was no act of sabotage by the local Japanese.

(signed) R.H. Lodge

To read the background of this report by Harry Lodge, and comments by his daughter and son-in-law, who now live in Arizona, click here.

Letter Published in PC World

Sweet! I read a wonderful review by Erik Larkin on disposable email addresses, and, since I knew of one more dandy way to avoid being spammed as much, wrote to the editors.

Why? Simply because it's a program created by Will Bontrager, and anything software he creates is as good as it can get. He never stops trying to improve his work. He actively seeks out the opinions of users so he can pinpoint needs and fill them. Customer service is his middle name. Well...almost!

Also, he is always available for technical support. Free. And the Bontragers recently brought Jackie McCutcheon on board as a tech support specialist. I've hired Jackie to help me with more programming jobs than I can count. For years. She has never let me down. She makes me look good.

Good team. They deserve great publicity; they're in it for the long run.

June 02, 2007

Eek! or Eke?

Eek vs. Eke
The origin of this interjection probably lies in cartoon world, when the heroine jumped up on a chair and shrieked, "Eek! A mouse!" These days it's still an informal, usually
humorous expression of anxiety. Think of it as a "lite," high-pitched shriek.

Example: Terri looked up from her keyboard and spotted a spider perched on top of her moniter. She jumped up and said, "Eek! A spider!" And then there's Eek! It's Eczema! Or how about this: Jason looks out his patio door and says, "Eek! Warthogs! Eew!" (We'll talk about "Eew another time.)

"Eke," on the other hand, is a much older word. It's generally used with the word "out, and usually tied in with doing these things with great difficulty. "Eke" does not mean "endure."

Examples: The husband and wife worked hard, but barely eked out a living...Arriving in Bermuda, Jonathan found he only had four pills for a nine-day stay. He decided to eke them out.

How about "eek" as an acronym. This is a dandy site:

EEK - Environmental Education for Kids

June 01, 2007

Homonym Heaven

Have you ever visited a visually attractive site and then spotted phrases such as, "If your interested in learning more about our Websight, e-mail us," or "This product comes with an unconditional guarantee. It's high quality will make you're life better!"? How about, "Body fat problems? We can help. Of coarse you need patients when it comes to reducing the access around you're waste."

You have just entered the puzzling world of homonyms (same: homo - name: nym). A homonym is a word with the same pronunciation as another but with a different meaning and origin and usually, different spelling as well. These little critters run rampant through cyberspace, especially on Websites, often turning away potential clients/customers.

Rather than rip apart people who use homonyms in their text, I want to offer some friendly help. We'll use some of the most common mistakes and offer alternatives according to Webgrammar's Style!

All right: all right means okay, satisfactory, agreeable, safe, good, well.

Alright: While alright is used often in fictional dialogue, and is still preferred by some writers of journalistic and business publications, we'll merely say that it is outdated for daily use.

ITS vs. IT'S
Its: The possessive form of the pronoun it. NEVER written with an apostrophe. Since most possessives have apostrophes, this confuses many people.

It's: contraction of it is and it has. Examples: It's time to go ... It's been great ... It's a well-designed site.

Your shows ownership: it's your choice ... it's your money ... it's your Website.

You're is a contraction of "you" and "are." Example: You're heading in the right direction.

Both words: "You're taking a big risk with your animated graphics."

Their: possessive form of the word "they." As with the possessive of it, you do NOT use an apostrophe for this word. You say, "Their site is colorful, crisp, and clear."

They're: Contraction of the words "they" and "are." Example: They're giving away powerful prizes.

There: at or in that place, e.g., "Now there is a sound system to die for."

All three: They're eating their hot fudge sundaes before heading over there.

Principal: first in authority; main participant; amount of a debt, investment, minus the interest, or on which interest is computed. Examples: She is a high school principal ... K. A. Simpson is a principal in the firm ... he still owes $5,000 on the principal.

Principle: basic truth or assumption. His ethics and principles are lower than a snake slithering on its stomach.

If you're a Website owner who has problems with homonyms, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, or just plain writing, don't be discouraged! You have a number of choices:

  • Ignore the fact and hope no one notices. After all, you have a great product or service!

  • Keep a good dictionary on your desk at all times, use it frequently, and guard it with your life. Or download a good dictionary to your computer.

  • Hire a copyeditor to proof your words.

  • Ask a friend to proof your words. If your friend isn't tactful and you're rather sensitive, you may end up with one less friend and a hole in your heart.

  • Find one of the many sites designed to help you with specific grammar and language problems.

  • Ask Webgrammar for advice at mailto:judyvorfeld@webgrammar.com

Here are some useful sites:

Alan Cooper's Homonyms
Self-study Homonym Quizzes
Homonym Game
Notorious Confusables
Homonyms, Homophones, Homographs, & Heteronyms

Presentation Tips for Small Business Owners on the Web

Do you know the value of great presentation? Many local businesses, chain stores, and catalog enterprises have years of experience and a great deal of time and money invested in their reputations and products . . . merchants running businesses on the Web find a number of slightly different challenges.

With numerous technological tools combined with free, often expert advice, new Web business owners can move steadily toward the time when they can begin making a profit. They are discovering what local business people already know:

it takes time to create a business plan, obtain capital, then find the right support team to help put together and maintain a solid business. They understand the need to advertise, network, market their businesses and themselves.

In much of America, when you walk into a store for the first time, you generally do so because it's attractive, clean, has professional signage, and good parking . . . but you still need to be persuaded to make a purchase.

Does someone greet you with a smile and ask if you need help, or do salespeople avoid eye contact as you enter? Does management display merchandise well, or leave boxes stacked up in the aisles? Can you read the prices easily, or do you need to pop out your Sherlock Holmes Magnifying Glass?

When you pick up a mail order catalog, you want to know you're using a reliable company. Does it offer clean, clear graphics and text? Does it tempt you with its descriptions and graphics? Do the prices and shipping charges seem reasonable? Do they offer a toll-free phone number? What about a return policy?

PERSONALITY AND CHARACTER. Some Internet business owners have yet to learn the value of effective presentation. Of themselves.Those who want to be taken seriously may be wise to provide some type of a picture of who they are and what they believe. And presentation stretches into other areas of Web development. Like credentials.

CREDENTIALS. Would you search the Internet for a professional (e.g., CPA, coach, psychologist, attorney) and, upon finding an attractive Web site, plunk down your hard-earned money without checking that person's credentials?

Why not offer a business profile or resume, and/or an About Us area? This helps interested visitors know you better. Mention community involvement, such as service club membership and volunteer work (school, church, nonprofits, etc.). Note professional affiliations . . . hobbies, if they would help people know you better.

TESTIMONIALS. Along the same lines: integrate testimonials (or comments about your site, product, customer service, etc.) onto your site. This isn't bragging . . . it's good business procedure. Be creative. When people e-mail you valuable comments, ask if you may use them on your Testimonials page. When designing the page, provide a link to their sites, and include their logo, if they offer one.

Many of the most successful businesses, regardless of size, are known for their commitment to the community: local, national, and/or international.
GIVE. When people create Web sites offering tutorials, tips, articles, discussion boards, e-zines, etc., what are they really doing? Giving. You can, as well. Many of us don't have products to give away in contests, or the funds to buy promotional items for giveaways. But you have courage, intelligence, and ingenuity, or you wouldn't be trying to start a business in cyberspace. Take those qualities and come up with something.

Find something that grabs your interest, perhaps a hobby, a celebrity, an author, a subject of some kind, and set about creating a page that will be your gift to visitors. Example: let's say you love poetry, but you don't write poetry. Why can't you set up a page of links to the most expressive poetry sites on the Internet? Scour the Internet for just the right ones. Or maybe your hobby is collecting buttons. Can you create a page of links, and scan some buttons to use as graphic bullets on the page? The list is limited only by your imagination (or your ability to brainstorm with others!!).

NEWS RELEASES. Try to get permission to put the actual text on your website, but if that isn't possible, link to the site of the media that published your interview, release, etc. Sometimes they'll send you a PDF of the article, which you can upload. And if you can't get permission to copy, you can always summarize, citing the date of publication, writer, etc. Keep all releases on one web page so visitors can skim and choose what they want. Think visitor, visitor, visitor. Convenience, convenience, convenience.

Your site, in part, will be ranked by its outgoing links, so make sure you have good ones that in some way reflect you or your interests. You can also set up a page of links to websites you recommend. Be creative, and be honest. Don’t try to hoodwink the search engines. Doesn’t work.

This unique gift, then, becomes another part of your business portrait. In my case, I have little to give away but information and a free tutorial on how to create an good ASCII ezine. I provide tips and carefully chosen links for people wanting information on writing, grammar usage, learning, site design, and site marketing.

One last note on giving. Not everyone can give more than they are already giving in their lives. This includes time. If you have no extra time, that's okay. Don't waste time fretting. There is no magic formula for operating a successful Web business . . . just lots of proven ideas that seem to work . . . but not all at the same time, or on the same site.

BECOME ACCOUNTABLE TO A GROUP. Consider affiliating with a group of ethical Internet professionals who will hold you accountable for your business ethics. There are some excellent organizations that require ethical business behavior of their members. Some will only accept an application after they have carefully studied the applicant's site.

Membership in such a group speaks volumes about you. You reveal that you are willing to have a third party involved if a dispute arises in the process of running your business.

CONCLUSION: The above suggestions, built around aspects of presentation, won't necessarily make or break your Internet business if implemented. They're not all vital . . . but they may be valuable. Keep in mind that the most valuable thing about your website is your attitude toward your visitors. Do everything you can to make their visit pleasant and efficient. Your visitors hold the keys to your success.