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Frequently Asked Questions

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...
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...