CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I am an AAE in a large consumer practice. Whenever I write a

press release, my supervisor hands it back to me completely rewritten

and marked up in red pen. She changes so much of what I've written that

it hardly looks like my work anymore. She never really explains what I

am doing wrong, though I have to say it does seem better after she has

finished with it. My spelling is usually fine, but she still finds

plenty to change. How can I get better?

Mr. B, Kansas City

A: All writing, no matter how skillful, can always be improved. You

should not be reluctant to have your work critiqued, but you need to

find more constructive ways to take advantage of this review


In order to do that, you have to submit the best work you possibly can.

Ask your boss to provide you with examples of excellent press releases

and study how they are structured.

Many of the problems may be due to you deviating from the favored style

guide. Find out which style guide is most often used in your office; it

is most likely the AP Stylebook. Keep the text close while you write,

and consult it often.

Also remember that different industries will often have their own style

guides. Thus, if you are writing a release related to the healthcare

industry, you may consult the references that are favored by science

writers. Ask your supervisor for guidance.

Most importantly, become a student of the written word. The wonderful

thing about writing is that one never stops learning how they can do it

better. Lapsing into a Comma by Bill Walsh is a great resource that will

help you discover better ways to express ideas.

Q: I am a VP with a small IR firm, and am due to take my first real

vacation from my job. I was just promoted to this position eight months

ago, and I have a lot of responsibility.

My problem is that I am really nervous about leaving everything while I

go away for a week. I am going with my husband on a cruise and I really

don't want to find myself thinking about work the whole time I am


But I keep worrying that something will go wrong. What if I screwed

something up that I don't know about yet? What if it all comes out while

I am on vacation and can't do anything to fix it? Please help me figure

out how I can enjoy my holiday!

Ms. Y, Portland, OR

A: Your fears seem rather vague, sweetie. It is understandable that you

feel a great sense of responsibility, having taken on a more demanding

position. It is also perfectly natural that you will want things to go

smoothly while you are away.

But obsessing over "what ifs" is simply not constructive.

Take positive action to provide your colleagues with all of the

information they will need to handle any situation that arises during

your absence. Write up notes on all of your clients that will explain

the status of each account. Be sure to include contact names and numbers

for key people. Also, call your contacts and let them know how long you

will be away, and who they can call at the agency if they need


Resist the temptation to check your voicemail and e-mail daily. As you

pointed out yourself, there is nothing you can really do while you are

on vacation. If you properly prepare your team, your clients will

survive without you. Count on it.

Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try

Pandora. E-mail her at

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