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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 19, 2000. All rights
Writing for Business: Carol Andrus
In today’s information-overloaded culture, good business
etiquette means getting to the point fast, says Carol Andrus,
whose business, Write On Target (212-724-1958, CLAndrus@aol.com),
teaches executive assistants how to communicate effectively.
Forbes said `I read over 10,000 business documents in a year —
you can’t make it simple enough for me,’" Andrus points out.
inundated with information — nobody has enough time and people
want direct conversation, a real voice."
Workplace 2000, a full day of training and celebration of professional
secretaries, will feature Andrus on Tuesday, April 25, at 9 a.m. at
the Princeton Marriott. Her seminars include "Skills We Need for
Workplace 2000," and "Fat-Free Writing." Rhonda
the owner of Dress for Less, gives a seminar on how to "Enhance
Your Professional Image," and Art Masotes of Amerada Hess
lectures on "Electronic File Management." Cost: $98, including
breakfast, lunch, and materials. Call 609-586-9446 (www.mccc.edu).
Andrus started her own communication consulting company because she
was appalled at how other communication consultants were teaching
awful grammar and bad style. "One company’s workbook was full
of errors, things like `Whom should I say is calling?,’" she says.
"Since I live in New York City, and it’s the home of bad grammar,
I figure I’d create my own seminar company."
The daughter of a German bookkeeper and a British soldier, Andrus
was exposed to many different languages while growing up. She earned
a BA in economics and German from Duke University, Class of 1957,
and after working as a secretary in New York, moved to France to study
romance languages at the Sorbonne. She later returned as a
tour guide in 1963, and has written for publications such as the
Voice and Miami Herald. Clients of Write on Target include New Jersey
Transit, Merrill Lynch, American Institute of Banking, and American
The next time you write a memo or prepare a business document, keep
these points in mind, says Andrus:
days are just gone," she says. "Use words like you, I, and
we." Don’t use the passive voice. "Why say `We had a
with John’ when you could just say `We discussed the project with
few lines of your memo what it’s about," says Andrus, "and
make the last line your action line — tell them what you
Adds Andrus: "Any paragraph that’s longer than seven lines we
re-read. Average business writing is on a 10th grade level."
Also emphasize important comments with bold, underlines, capital
and bullet points.
still see a lot of bedtime stories written in memos," says Andrus
"For example, someone writes `Gene Gold called me yesterday from
our Denver office to tell me,’ — does your reader really need to
know that? Otherwise, it’s just `Gene Gold told me that…’ or `We
have a big problem in our Denver Distribution Center.’"
Even in E-mail, don’t ask your reader to scroll down page after page.
all the employment charts is attitude," says Andrus. "Do you
have an `I can do it’ attitude for the new technology and all the
things in the workplace?"
In most cases, secretaries will say no, and it’s time to change that,
Whether you’re a secretary or manager, good writing skills are not
only a nice touch, they can pull you up the corporate ladder, says
Andrus. "The most sought after skills are communication
she says. "Many people realize that no one in their office can
write, and now they’re making six figures because they started writing
supervisor’s memos, then reports. Now they’re writing for the
of the company."
Nobody likes to pay sales tax — especially not a
year after the fact. But advertising and public relation firms have
had to do just that on many occasions, thanks to a vague state law
that applies taxes to some advertising services and not others.
"For over 30 years, the advertising industry and the Division
of Taxation had been hampered by a poorly written and poorly
sales tax law that caused a great deal of difficulty in audits of
corporations that advertise, or ad agencies and public relations firms
that serviced these companies," says Joe Dietz, executive
vice president of Richartz, Fliss, Clark & Pope, an ad agency in
"What happened to the ad agencies is that they would interpret
the services they provided their client as not subject to tax. At
some future date, the ad agency was audited and the auditor determined
that the ad firm had incorrectly not applied sales tax. Those firms
then would go back to the client on bended knee and ask them to ante
up, or they no longer had the account and there was no one to request
payment from. In order to avoid that problem many ad agencies charged
six percent on everything they did, and in that case the advertiser
A year ago, Dietz, along with other members of the communications
industry, worked with the Division of Taxation to rewrite the
law, and as a result, the sales tax on many services offered by
and public relations firms has been dropped. "It put New Jersey
ad agencies on an equal footing with their competitors in surrounding
states where no sales tax was ever charged on services," says
Dietz, "and secondly, it finally recognized ad agencies and PR
firms as professional firms such as lawyers, doctors,
To help members of the industry grasp the sales tax code under the
new law, Dietz put together the "Sales Tax Guide for Advertising
and Public Relations Professionals," published by the American
Association of Advertising Agencies (free by calling 212-682-2500).
He’s also presenting a seminar on sales tax at the Business Marketing
Association meeting on Tuesday, April 25, at 8:30 a.m. at the
Inn. Also on the program are Denise Lambert of the state taxation
department and Alan J. Preis, a CPA from Florham Park. Call
609-409-5601. Cost: $95 (www.bma-nj.com).
The former president of New Jersey’s oldest advertising firm, J.M.
Kesslinger & Associates in Union, Dietz has a BA in economics from
Amherst College, Class of 1949. In 1995 he founded the Advertising
and Communications Sales Tax Coalition, an organization intended to
write a guide on existing sales tax law that would be beneficial to
ad agencies, public relations firms, advertisers, and even the New
Jersey Division of Taxation. "Top people in the NJ Division of
Taxation were unable to agree on what was and what was not susceptible
to sales tax when I first wrote the proposition paper," he says.
"A good deal of the problem stemmed from the fact that there was
no clear definition of what comprised `advertising services,’ and
the law specifically stated that advertising services were subject
to sales tax."
In 1998 Dietz helped get an amendment to the tax law that clarified
which advertising services are subject to tax. It essentially limited
the definition of "advertising services" to the processing
services involved in direct mail advertising. Everything else was
no longer subject to tax.
The ultimate effect of the amendment was to elevate ad and public
relations firms to the level of a profession, much like lawyers and
doctors. "All of the creative work — art, design, and copy
— is no longer subject to tax," says Dietz. "Everything
an agency or design firm up to the point of delivery of a disk to
the printer is no longer subject to tax." It also put New Jersey
ad agencies on an equal footing with competitors in surrounding states
where no sales tax is charged.
But there is still some confusion on certain points of the law,
where copyrighted artwork is involved, says Dietz. "Those create
some interesting tax situations and those are outlined in the new
guide," says Dietz. "It’s so complex many are still fuzzy
as to what is and isn’t subject to tax."
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