Before you discount all clichĂ©s as weak, lazy writing, consider a few ideas from Orin Hargraves' new book, It's Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of ClichĂ©s (Oxford University Press, 229 pages, $24.95 in hardcover). I recommend the book for writers, editors, and others who care...
This month's e-newsletter, Better Writing at Work, features an article on avoiding gender-based language traps. Below are highights from the 545-word article.  1. Avoid "man" words unless you are specifically referring to an adult male. Avoid expressions such as manpower, man hours, and chairman. 2. Avoid words that communicate a "women-only" category. Use housekeeper rather than chambermaid, ballet dancer rather than ballerina. 3. Avoid...
Today I used the words perspicacious and salutary in my monthly newsletter article. Do you know what they mean? Test yourself: Answer the two multiple-choice questions below. Perspicacious means (a) of a lesser quality, (b) clear-sighted, (3) extremely curious. Salutary means (a) good for one's health, (b) remedial, (3) wholesome. Are you certain...
Lately I have been noticing a lot of unnecessarily complex words in the samples I read for business writing classes. Here is a sampling of 10 words I have seen, along with simpler words that match each writer's meaning: mitigate = lessen, relieve utilize = use endeavor = effort, work superfluous = extra, excess  customarily = usually abbreviated = short additional = other concordance =...
Are there words you hate to read or hear in business communications? I have one I can't stand more than any other. I bet it will surprise you. Oftentimes. Yes, the word that makes me grind my teeth most often is oftentimes. Whenever I read or hear it in a business report, proposal, or...
A reader named Max asked me to write about "tie over" and "tide over." "Tide over" is the correct expression, at least in normal circumstances. Examples: We have enough letterhead to tide us over until our office moves. This food should tide me over until the weather clears and I can...
Over the past 10 days I have received more than a dozen emails that refer to driving. People are driving change, driving responses, driving learning, driving sales, and driving customers. What's with all the driving? And what precisely do the writers mean? Below are examples excerpted from messages in my inbox. Can you be...
The other day Patricia from Brazil sent me a blog comment with a question. She asked whether a sentence she had written was pleonastic. Pleonastic? Leave it to someone from another country to teach me something new about my native language. I thought I would share Patricia's word with you, my...
A friend sent me a sentence that popped out at her from the first paragraph of a report: Without further adieu, let's get started. It sounds correct, doesn't it? But I am certain the writer did not mean "Without further farewell"--not at the beginning of his report! Clearly the writer intended "Without further...
The other day I was reading a writing sample for the class Meeting Notes Made Easy, when I found a sentence like this one: We are waiting to see what comes down the pipe. The sentence implies that you are standing beneath the pipe looking up--not a good idea. The original expression is...