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...
My 11-year-old daughter and I were watching a movie The Art of Violin. (She had talked me into watching it as part of her violin practice time.) In it, we watched several famous violinists playing--Yehudi Menuhin, Fritz Kreisler, Isaac Stern, Jascha Heifetz--with commentary about their technique, uniqueness, and particular...
This week in a Better Business Writing class, an attendee named Linda used the word purview in her writing project. Her context was similar to this:If purchasing is part of your purview, please note these changes. One of the other attendees asked, "What's a purview?" A few other people,...
Today is a national holiday in the United States: Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Dr. King was a peace activist and a passionate advocate for social justice and racial equality. He was born on January 15, 1929, and assassinated on April 4, 1968. The holiday in celebration of Dr....
Imagine that everything you wrote were translated into several foreign languages. How would you write differently? Would your sentences still be complex? Would you continue to use puns, cultural allusions, and slang? How about acronyms and abbreviations? For me, it's more than something I have imagined. I found out...
The business section of today's Seattle Times features an article about Free & Clear, a company that provides stop-smoking programs. CEO Tim Kilgallon is quoted as saying "Tobacco treatment is the low-hanging fruit in health-care cost savings." The same quote appears under Mr. Kilgallon's photo in the print edition...