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Frequently Asked Questions

The correct way to fully write out dates using commas, according to the American format, is to write the weekday separate from the month and date, which in turn will be separated from the year using a comma—for example, Friday, April 29, 1993. This is one of the most popular...
Yesterday I went on an urban hike. Climbing stairs among lush greenery, I spotted the sign below. Not again! Someone had once again printed a sign without checking on their use of apostrophes. Don’t do it! Before creating a sign or printing cards that include an apostrophe, read this...
The other day while giving feedback to a client on her customer-service writing, I noticed this sentence: "Once you receive your new card, please contact any merchants with whom you have reoccurring charges." Reoccurring charges? Is that correct? Or should it be “recurring charges”? What do you think?  Before I...
I received a good question by email today. A reader wanted to know my views on capitalizing words that are followed by numbers or letters, for example, Step 1 vs. step 1, Section A vs. section A, and Line 2 vs. line 2. How would you decide whether to...
The other day a friend told me he was concerned about having taken on a copy editing job because he didn't yet feel confident of who/whom and whoever/whomever. How about you? Are you confident about where to use those pronouns? Take the test below to see whether your confidence or...
When a newspaper makes the mistake on the front page of the sports section, you know an error has spread. The writer, copyeditor, and proofreader all missed it. Can you recognize it?  When I saw that error in a Seattle TImes headline, I cringed, but I wasn't surprised. Just a...
While you have been busy working, some of the rules of writing evolved, and the University of Chicago Press released a new Chicago Manual of Style. Take a look at the changes below to determine which ones you need to adopt. Then update your company style guide to be...
I visited beautiful Whistler, British Columbia, last week and loved everything about it--except perhaps for its free-spirited use and avoidance of apostrophes. Its businesses' signs kept my writing teacher's mind spinning. Here's a challenge for you: See if you can determine which of the signs are punctuated according to current...
People who want to be technical writers often ask me whether business writing classes will help them. I answer yes—because strong business writing skills will help them be better technical writers. But what is the difference between technical writing and business writing? I asked Julie Hale, a technical writer in the...
In a recent business writing class, a participant confessed that she didn't know a pronoun from a preposition--and she wanted to learn the difference. Why? So she could feel confident about using language correctly. Knowing the parts of speech can help you: Recognize which words to capitalize in a title and after a greeting. Know...