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...
The other day I received an email reply from a client. Here is the entire message: PHEW. I was sweating bullets over that one. . . . Story later. I understood exactly what she meant. Here is a translation into explicit business writing: I am relieved. I was very...
In a business writing seminar this week we talked about global communication. The topic meant something to the attendees, who work in an international company with employees in 18 countries. I asked seminar participants to review the writing samples they had brought, looking for words that might confuse a...
If you write in English to an audience that speaks English as a foreign language (EFL, ESL), choose words that have few meanings. Or provide a context to help your readers understand the meaning. In a writing seminar last week, a woman named Montserrat, who is from Spain, shared...
I know what it is like to try to communicate in a foreign language. I remember a visit to Madrid's Bibilioteca Nacional (National Library), where I tried to do research for a book I was writing. Crushed by the limits of my skills in Spanish, I left the building...
In a recent Keys to Error-Free Writing class, participants wanted to know how to render clock time. A.M. or a.m.? PM or pm? 24-hour clock? 12-hour clock? Mention time zones or leave them out? Refer to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)? These questions rarely came up a few years ago....
Are contractions sloppy? That question came to me today when a writing class participant told me she would never use a contraction. And here's the reason she wouldn't: A teacher had drilled into her head that their use is wrong. In fact, the participant called contractions "sloppy," and a...
Every once in a while I find a communication habit I would really like other people to break. Here's one: the use of the former and the latter. Every time I hear or read "the former . . . the latter" I have to rethink or reread what has...