Business Writing—Does Your Layout Make Matters Clear or Make People Angry?

A surge of email has recently hit my inbox so today I did the periodic purge.  That is, rather than just delete all those nice-to-read emails, I decided to officially unsubscribe.
Holy smokes!  What a garden variety of ways to communicate the simple message  “Here’s how you unsubscribe” and provide that simple option.  Very few emailers communicated that message in a straightforward way and laid out …Read More

Writing Skills: Treat Enclosing Commas Like Bookends

Many things in life come in pairs: Shoes. Earrings. Salt and pepper shakers. Knife and fork. Chop sticks. Bookends. Ping-pong paddles. Pillowcases. Parentheses.

Commas. Not all commas. But some commas.

You’ll never see an open parenthesis alone—like this ( –unless someone has made a proofreading error and forgotten to add the closing parenthesis. But you’ll often see writers use the first enclosing comma and forget to add …Read More

Business Writing Skills: Writing in Bullet Points Can Be a Brainless Activity

“All your people write long narratives that we have to wade through! We’d have our writing problems licked if we could just get them to jot things down simply in bullet points,” the president snapped at his partner.
“Everything can’t be boiled down to bullet points,” the older partner and chairman of the board responded.
This disagreement between the two partners of a client organization is a …Read More

Business Writing: Your Punctuation Can Take You to Court

“I’m tired of going to court because these lawyers don’t know how to use a which clause or where to put a comma.” A vice president and general counsel of a large oil company made that statement to me early in my career just as he was contracting my training company to lead business writing workshops for his group of attorneys.
In the past 3 decades …Read More

Writing More, Saying Less: The Link Between Words and Worth

To pose a frequently asked question:  Does size matter? Document length, that is. Do more details lead to more definitive answers? That question was debated about the healthcare bill and is now being batted around regarding the new financial regulatory legislation.

What’s the link between words and worth? Take, for example, the new financial reform bill. Here’s how Becky Quick, anchor of CNBC’s Squak Box put …Read More

Are You Giving “Backward” Instructions?

It’s bad enough to dial a “customer service” line and have to listen to a menu of seven options. But it’s even more irritating to get to the end of those seven options, and realize that you have to listen to them again because you can’t remember the direction by the time you get to the end of the spiel.Read More

National Punctuation Day: 3 Biggest Punctuation Errors

Are you curious about the three punctuation errors that surface most often when participants bring writing samples to our business and technical writing workshops? Although we haven’t kept a formal list, hands down, these are the three that take top honors:
Run-on sentences (missing or inadequate punctuation)
The biggest punctuation pitfall that renders a sentence powerless is the run-on. It’s as noticeable as a train wreck. Here …Read More

Communication Quandary Series: Opening Closed Minds

Recently, I received an email at asking this question: “How can we open closed minds—people who do not want to listen to any arguments or logic?” There are many different ways to tackle this problem, so I’ll spend a few weeks doling out some tips on how to get through to people who can’t be reasoned with.

1)  Appeal to self-interest.  Yes, people do make …Read More