Over the 10+ years of writing this business writing blog, I've been consistent about virtually all my style, punctuation, and grammar choices. But there's one comma rule I've flip-flopped on:  my husband Michael my husband, Michael,  I have just one husband. His name is Michael. In a sentence should I surround his name with...
Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders have differences. But according to the editors at The New York Times, one of them is not the way their names are made possessive. The Times forms the possessive the same way for both of them.  Times example: But in the end, Mr. Sanders's populist economic message proved no match for...
My friend John has a graceful, sophisticated writing style in which paragraph follows elegant paragraph. John wants to change his style so that it takes him less time to communicate in letters, emails, and other pieces. He also wants his writing to be faster to read. To help John (and...
When you cut words to make your business writing more concise, be sure to keep the prepositions you need. Some prepositions bring structure and clarity to your sentences. Learn which ones below.  A client wrote to me asking whether he needed to use the prepositions in these sentences: We finished on December 2,...
Let's face it. In 2015 typos hid undetected in our writing. So did errors in grammar and punctuation that we would have recognized if we weren't racing to upload, print, or click Send. Mistakes happen.  But some mistakes happen over and over--not just from moving too fast but from lack of understanding. The 10 items below illustrate...
First name? Last name? His name? Her name? THEIR names? At this time of year, when many people mail holiday greetings, the big questions involve how to render people's names in the greeting and on the printed envelope: How do I write to two doctors? Whose name goes first, the woman's...
Please--don't do it. Don't use apostrophes to make expressions plural, like this: This photo of a plumbing supply company storefront is NOT for a company owned by people named Spa and Pool. If it were, Spa's & Pool's might be the perfect sign.  Spas & Pools--that's what the sign should say.  Google...
In the past week, two clients have written to ask whether they should refer to their company or division using the singular it or a plural pronoun. Below are their examples, slightly disguised. The underlining indicates the pronoun they doubted. Company X wishes to express our sincere appreciation for Company Y’s...
UPDATED IN AUGUST 2021 Do you know the difference between a dash and a hyphen? Do you recognize where to use en dashes and em dashes? If you do, then pass this post on to someone else. Or read it to be sure of your knowledge. In business writing classes, people regularly...
In a recent Punctuation for Professionals online class, an attendee said she had learned this rule: to always use a comma before because.  That "rule" makes no sense. We need a comma before because only rarely. Most commas before because appear for another reason having nothing to do with the word because. Examples: We chose Monday, July 6,...