Look at business writing differently

Good business writing requires us all to think a little differently.
Good writing is not complex and dense. It does not require someone to work hard to grasp the message. It should not require a dictionary.
It should sound like conversation: business people talking with business people. That can happen if you picture [...]

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Plain Writing and the Act of 2010

Everyone is talking “Plain Writing” these days. It comes from a federal mandate (a Congressional law, actually, The Plain Writing Act of 2010) requiring government writers to use a language the rest of us can understand!
This concept is not new, but the law itself is. The prolonged budget battle in Congress this year [...]

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The plural pronouns “THEY” and “THEM”

I see and hear this a lot these days: people using the pronoun they (and sometimes them) in place of a singular noun. “If your employee has a problem, help them understand what they are doing.”
What’s that all about? The word employee is singular, and we learned our grammar rules back in school: “Use a [...]

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Language insights from word origins

A good dictionary provides word origins as well as definitions. It’s no accident that English contains so many words. Over the centuries many peoples and cultures have contributed their words and concepts, and English has accepted them enthusiastically.
Look at these words, for example.  Each came from another language, intact.  And English is richer (if harder [...]

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Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, by an advertising exec

Fourscore and seven years ago (say “eighty-seven”) our fathers brought forth (”founded” would be a better word) on this continent a new nation (let’s get the name in there big), conceived in liberty (sounds awkward: say “with the idea of freedom”) and dedicated to the proposition that all men (we ought to have “women” in [...]

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More pronunciation fun…

Or, why English is so difficult!
When I saw the tear in the fabric, I shed a tear.
He wound the bandage around the wound.
The hiker chose to desert his dessert in the desert.
Since there is no time like the present, you may present the present.
We must subject the subject to a series of tests.

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Updating Your Resumé?

Time To Update Your Resumé?
If the word “layoffs” has crept into your organization’s vocabulary; or you’ve recently started wondering, “What else is out there?”; or you simply recognize the sense of always knowing who you are and what you have to offer; perhaps this is a good time to look at that important tool for [...]

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Not EVERYONE uses e-mail…

E-Mail Taking Over? Not Necessarily!
Most of us use e-mail almost exclusively for contacting people in the world of work and business. But at least one successful (and profitable!!) company still holds out, at least on the customer service end, and I’m thankful for it.
The SOUTHWEST AIRLINES website lists only two ways to contact them: a [...]

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Bravo, President Obama!

The inauguration is over, and one of America’s greatest speech-makers has taken the oath of office.
I’m not writing to comment on President Obama’s speech.  I enjoyed it, and I felt good about the day (even though I did not vote for him in November).
In my classes, I emphasize the simplicity of America’s greatest speeches. Lincoln’s [...]

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The origin of “OK”

Richard Lederer reports on Allen Walker Read, who died in 2002 at 96. Read enjoyed tracing words to their original sources, identifying “Dixie” from an 1850 minstrel show, tracing “Podunk” to an Indian name meaning “swamp,” and “almighty dollar” to author Washington Irving. He’s best known for hunting down the origin of “OK,” a word [...]

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