While reading an inflight travel magazine on my vacation, I came across an ad for a resort in Traverse City, MI. Do you recognize the abbreviation MI? Is it Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, or Missouri? I am not familiar with Traverse City, so the ad kept me guessing. It wasn't until...
I am working with an executive who speaks English as a second language, with Chinese as her first language. She was very surprised to learn that the words information, knowledge, and jewelry have no plural forms. Would you join me in making a list of such words for her? I have started...
In the United States, today is 1/11/11. In much of the rest of the world, it's 11/1/11. That difference is enough to argue against using numbers alone. Although all those 1s look terrific together, numbers alone can't communicate with the clarity of words, especially if you have clients, employees, or business partners...
I sent out our monthly e-newsletter, Better Writing at Work, yesterday. As usual we got hundreds of out-of-office messages. Here is my favorite, which came from Phillip in Germany: "I am in the moment not in the office." I prefer Phillip's preposition. LynnSyntax Training
We have just welcomed to our home an international exchange student from the Middle East. When I read the information she included on her program application, I added her birthday to our calendar: June 5. But here's the problem: Her birthday is May 6. How could I have gotten that wrong? Her birthday...
With some business audiences, it's easy to know exactly what to say and how to say it. We do it almost without thinking, following the usual rules. But with a global audience of non-native English speakers, the usual rules get tossed aside. We need to take a fresh look at communicating. So it...
I've been writing here about dates and times, but today I got a good laugh about places. A psychologist who lives in Redmond, Washington, shared a story of an Australian consultant who was trying to track him down. Only when she realized that Redmond, WA (mentioned on a website),...
I recently led a business communications class for a group of global executives in Seattle, Washington. Many of them spoke English as a second, third, or fourth language. When I asked them about their learning goals, several mentioned wanting to communicate more effectively with subordinates. Here is a way to...
In yesterday's Better Business Writing class, participants shared two examples of language to avoid: "blessed" and "bang for the buck." I think their cautions are worth passing on. In the first example, an employee has been sending email with "Have a blessed day," and her coworkers have been buzzing...
Susan wrote with this capitalization question:"I work for a man who does Chinese energy work called 'qigong.' When that word is used in writing (on our web site, for instance), people tend to capitalize it. My contention is that it should be treated like the word yoga and should...