In the past week I have read writing samples from two high-level managers in two different industries, both with the same mistake. They both used the word assure incorrectly. So even though I have covered ensure-assure-insure before, it must be time for a reminder. One manager wrote something like this: "My job...
Comedians and political pundits in the United States have been making fun of Texas Governor Rick Perry because of his use of the word literally. In a recent presidential debate, Perry said Iran would invade Iraq "literally at the speed of light." Literally means "actually" or "in a literal manner." Iran cannot actually...
I was listening to a news show on TV tonight, when I heard Donald Trump talking about hiring 10 "apprenti." He pronounced that final word ah-PREN-tie. It is possible that Mr. Trump believes the plural of apprentice is apprenti. If so, I am here to correct him. But I will not do...
Although today is only November 15, I can already tell you the most common error in people's business writing this year. It is the use of this word: memo's When people sign up for my writing courses, I ask them, among other things, what kinds of business messages they write. Their...
Grace wrote and asked me to settle a dispute at work about using them or those in specific ways in sentences. Here are Grace's examples: 1. A. The workman left them tools in the garage.    B. The workman left those tools in the garage.  2. A. Please take them trash bins to the curb.     B....
I recently worked on business writing with a manager from India who spoke several Indian languages as well as English. She made an error that I have since noticed in another Indian manager's writing, so I thought it was worth writing about here. It involved using "few" when she meant "a...
Katherine, a reader, sent me an excellent example of the confusion that can result from messages that are stingy with words and punctuation. Katherine saw this handwritten advertisement on a bulletin board: Looking for a good, responsible babysitter. Call Jane. Underneath the announcement were small slices of paper, each with Jane's phone number,...
People have been asking why "If I were" and "If she were" are correct. How can were, a plural verb, be correct with I and she, singular subjects? And does the rule really apply in 21st-century business writing? These correct sentences illustrate the rule: If Mike's mother were alive, she would still be correcting...
I am excited to announce Error Quests, a new product we just released. It is a collection of 50 short excerpts from business messages, each one containing just one error in grammar, usage, word choice, sentence structure, or punctuation. Your job is to find the single error according to business writing...
This month's issue of my free e-newsletter, Better Writing at Work, focuses on pronoun problems that come up in business writing classes. It includes the test below. Take the test, and then check your answers. Note: In case you have already taken the test in Better Writing at Work, I...