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Never Accept a Check

Never accept a grammar- and spell-check as foolproof. Last week I was once again reminded of the limits of proofreading software. In a business writing class, participants were sharing the documents they had just written, when we discovered these grammar- and spell-check misses: “between you… continue reading

When Writing Is Cruel

Today at a business lunch I heard a tale of bad manners in business writing. Here’s the story: A job candidate, who had been searching for a position for quite a while, had four interviews with a prestigious Seattle firm. Naturally, he was getting excited.… continue reading

Redefining the “Royal We”

The "royal we" has a questionable reputation. According to The American Heritage College Dictionary, it means "the pronoun used by a sovereign . . . to refer to himself or herself." I’d like to present a new definition of the self-absorbed we. I propose that… continue reading

How to Frustrate Readers

In our office and home, we just changed Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Going through the grueling process of understanding the new screen and procedures, I am reminded of three ways to frustrate readers: Avoid telling readers how to do the essential tasks of their lives.… continue reading

High-Risk Language

Nine days ago I went to pick up a batch of newly printed business cards. Unfortunately, the cards had been incorrectly printed and had to be redone. When the printer asked when I needed them, I responded, "No rush. I still have some." Because of… continue reading

A Business Writer’s Riddle

Question: What do "human begins" and "human beings" have in common? Answer: Spell-check accepts both of them. So in a recent post, I talked about the importance of writing as human begins. Hmmm, that could be fascinating! Perhaps on stone tablets? However, since I intended… continue reading

Best Business Writing Book

Despite its off-putting title, Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide  is the best book on business writing of this century. I’m not exaggerating. While other good books on business writing focus carefully on the message, the audience, and the right methods, this… continue reading

Introducing “Thought Showers”

I’m pleased to introduce the term "thought shower," created in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to replace the potentially offensive expression "brainstorming." According to Henry McDonald, Ireland editor of The Observer, the staff at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, in Belfast, found the word "brainstorming"… continue reading