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Best Reference Book for Writers

Last week in our Grammar and Punctuation for Professionals class at a Seattle firm, participants raised a lot of nitty gritty questions, as usual:

Question: Does 1990s have an apostrophe in it?
Answer: No, not anymore.

Question: If you use a dash between dollar amounts such as $50,000–$60,000, do you have to repeat the dollar sign on the second amount?
Answer: Yes, it’s required for clarity.

Question: Is it acceptable to abbreviate “Washington State” as WA rather than Wash., especially if people in the department say “WA”?
Answer: Yes, it’s acceptable.

While participants worked on self-checks, I researched some questions in the reference books we had on hand:

Among these four books, “Gregg” distinguished itself as the best all-around pick for a combination of ease of use, information, and number of examples. The Microsoft Manual of Style didn’t address all topics. “Chicago” required more time to find things. While fast,“AP” had fewer examples.

Each of these fine reference books has its audience.

Do you know how to punctuate the end of this sentence?

Lu said, “I fear the words ‘Look it up

If not, get a Gregg Reference Manual and look under “Apostrophes, as single quotation marks.” (Hint.)


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.