Top Ten Tips on Business Writing

It doesn’t take much to improve the quality of most business writing. Just muttering “shorter, clearer, stronger” in each editor’s ear twice a day will take you a surprisingly long way.

This down-to-earth “how-to” guide for editors and writers will take you a long way in the right direction.

  1. Know who your readers are.
    Consumers or businesses, sales or engineering, office-based or customer-facing — who are these people you’re talking to?
  2. Think about how long they’ve got.
    If they’re looking for quick bullet points, don’t swamp them with pages of prose.
  3. Vary the words you use.
    If you have things you must say more than once, change the wording or turn the sentence round.
  4. Weed out your spare adjectives.
    Try removing all purely descriptive words. Put them back one at a time, but only on merit.
  5. Choose vigorous, vivid verbs.
    It’s the words of movement and action that pack life and energy into your writing.
  6. Be active, not passive.
    “People write letters” is clearer, shorter and stronger than “Letters are written by people.”
  7. Shorten your sentences.
    The full stop or full point is the most powerful stylistic tool in English. Use it. Often.
  8. Break it up and lose the grey.
    Use headings, paragraphs and bulleted lists to let light into the text. Give people headlines they can scan.
  9. Stick to your house style.
    “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” said Emerson. Have as few rules as possible, but enforce them.
  10. Keep a dictionary within reach.
    Use it several times a day and try to develop a nose for words you might get wrong.


10 grammar mistakes you can easily avoid

These days, we tend to communicate via the keyboard as much as we do verbally. Often, we’re in a hurry, quickly dashing off emails with typos, grammatical shortcuts, and it’s expected. It’s no big deal. But other times, we try to invest a little care, avoiding mistakes so that there’s no confusion about what we’re saying and so that we look professional and reasonably bright.In general, we can slip up in a verbal conversation and get away with it. A colleague may be thinking, “Did she just say ‘irregardless’?”, but the words flow on, and our worst transgressions are carried away and with luck, forgotten.

That’s not the case with written communications. When we commit a grammatical crime in emails, discussion posts, reports, memos, and other professional documents, there’s no going back. We’ve just officially gone on record as being careless or clueless. And here’s the worst thing. It’s not necessary to be an editor or a language whiz or a spelling bee triathlete to spot such mistakes. They have a way of doing a little wiggle dance on the screen and then reaching out to grab the reader by the throat.Catching typos is easy (although not everyone does it). It’s the other stuff — correctly spelled but incorrectly wielded — that sneaks through and makes us look stupid. Here’s a quick review of some of the big ones.

#1: Loose for lose
No: I always loose the product key.
Yes: I always lose the product key.

#2: It’s for its (or god forbid, its’)
No: Download the HTA, along with it’s readme file.
Yes: Download the HTA, along with its readme file.No: The laptop is overheating and its making that funny noise again.Yes: The laptop is overheating and it’s making that funny noise again.

#3: They’re for their for there
No: The managers are in they’re weekly planning meeting.
Yes: The managers are in their weekly planning meeting.No: The techs have to check there cell phones at the door, and their not happy about it.Yes: The techs have to check their cell phones at the door, and they’re not happy about it.

#4: i.e. for e.g.
No: Use an anti-spyware program (i.e., Ad-Aware).
Yes: Use an anti-spyware program (e.g., Ad-Aware).Note: The term i.e. means “that is”; e.g. means “for example”. And a comma follows both of them.

#5: Effect for affect
No: The outage shouldn’t effect any users during work hours.
Yes: The outage shouldn’t affect any users during work hours.Yes: The outage shouldn’t have any effect on users.Yes: We will effect several changes during the downtime.Note: Impact is not a verb. Purists, at least, beg you to use affect instead:No: The outage shouldn’t impact any users during work hours.Yes: The outage shouldn’t affect any users during work hours.Yes: The outage should have no impact on users during work hours.

#6: You’re for your
No: Remember to defrag you’re machine on a regular basis.
Yes: Remember to defrag your machine on a regular basis.No: Your right about the changes.Yes: You’re right about the changes.

#7: Different than for different from
No: This setup is different than the one at the main office.
Yes: This setup is different from the one at the main office.Yes: This setup is better than the one at the main office.

#8 Lay for lie
No: I got dizzy and had to lay down.
Yes: I got dizzy and had to lie down.Yes: Just lay those books over there.

#9: Then for than
No: The accounting department had more problems then we did.
Yes: The accounting department had more problems than we did.Note: Here’s a sub-peeve. When a sentence construction begins with If, you don’t need a then. Then is implicit, so it’s superfluous and wordy:No: If you can’t get Windows to boot, then you’ll need to call Ted.Yes: If you can’t get Windows to boot, you’ll need to call Ted.

#10: Could of, would of for could have, would have
No: I could of installed that app by mistake.
Yes: I could have installed that app by mistake.No: I would of sent you a meeting notice, but you were out of town.Yes: I would have sent you a meeting notice, but you were out of town.

Courtesy: a forwarded e-mail message

Interaction with American clients: Useful tips

Here’s an e-mail I received, which provides useful tips while interacting with American clients.

1.Do not write “the same” in an email – it makes little sense to them.

Example – I will try to organize the project artifacts and inform you of the same when it is done.
This is somewhat an Indian construct. It is better written simply as:
I will try to organize the project artifacts and inform you when that is done 2. Do not write or say, “I have some doubts on this issue”
      The term “Doubt” is used in the sense of doubting someone – we use this term because in Indian languages, the word for a “doubt”        

and a “question” is the same.
      The correct usage (for clients) is:
      I have a few questions on this issue
3. The term “regard” is not used much in American English. They usually do not say “regarding this issue” or “with regard to this”.
      Simply use, “about this issue”.

4. Do not say “Pardon” when you want someone to repeat what they said. The word “Pardon” is unusual for them and is somewhat
formal. You can say, ‘Please come again or could you please repeat.’5.       Americans do not understand most of the Indian accent immediately – They only understand 75% of what we speak and then interpret the rest. Therefore try not to use shortcut terms such as

      “Can’t”       or       “Don’t” . Use the expanded “Cannot” or “Do not”.6.       Do not use the term “screwed up” liberally. If a situation is not good, it is better to say, “The situation is messed up”. Do not use words such as “shucks”, or “pissed off”. 7.        

As a general matter of form, Indians interrupt each other constantly in meetings – DO NOT interrupt a client when they are speaking .
      Over the phone, there could be delays – but wait for a short time before responding.8.       When explaining some complex issue, stop occasionally and ask “Does that make sense?“. This is preferable than “Do you understand me?”

9.       In email communications, use proper punctuation. To explain something, without breaking your flow, use semicolons, hyphens or
paranthesis. As an example:
      You have entered a new bug (the popup not showing up) in the defect tracking system; we could not reproduce it – although,
      a screenshot would help.
      Notice that a reference to the actual bug is added in paranthesis so that the sentence flow is not broken. Break a long sentence
      using such punctuation.
10.     In American English, a mail is a posted letter. An email is electronic mail.
When you say “I mailed the information to you”, it means you sent an actual letter or package through the postal system.
The correct usage is: “I emailed the information to you”11.     To “prepone” an appointment is an Indian usage. There is no actual word called prepone . You can “advance” an appointment.

12.     In the term “N-tier Architecture” or “3-tier Architecture” , the word “tier” is NOT pronounced as “Tire”. I have seen many people pronounce it this way. The correct pronunciation is “tea-yar”. The “ti” is       pronounced as “tea”.13.     The usages “September End”, “Month End”, “Day End” are not understood well by Americans. They use these as “End of September”,

“End of Month” or “End of Day”. 14.     Americans have weird conventions for time – when they say the time is “Quarter Of One”, they mean the time is 1:15. Better to ask them the exact time.

15.     Indians commonly use the terms “Today Evening”, “Today Night”. These are not correct; “Today” means “This Day” where the Day stands
for Daytime. Therefore “Today Night” is confusing. The correct usages are: “This Evening”, “Tonight”.
That applies for “Yesterday Night” and “Yesterday Evening”. The correct usages are: “Last Night” and “Last Evening”. 16.     When Americans want to know the time, it is usual for them to say, “Do you have the time?“. Which makes no sense to an indian.

17.     There is no word called “Updation”. You update somebody. You wait for updates to happen to the database. Avoid saying “Updation”.

18.     When you talk with someone for the first time, refer to them as they refer to you – in America, the first conversation usually starts by
using the first name. Therefore you can use the first name of a client. Do not say “Sir”. Do not call women “Madam”. 19.     It is usual convention in initial emails (particularly technical) to expand abbreviations, this way:
We are planning to use the Java API for Registry (JAXR).
      After mentioning the expanded form once, subsequently you can use the abbreviation. 20.     Make sure you always have a subject in your emails and that the subject is relevant.

Do not use a subject line such as HI.21.       Avoid using “Back” instead of “Back” Use “ago”. Back is the worst word for American. (for Days use “Ago”, for hours use “before”)

22.     Avoid using “but” instead of “But” Use “However”.  

23.     Avoid using “Yesterday” hereafter use “Last day”.

24.     Avoid using “Tomorrow” hereafter use “Next day”. 

Book reviews

There are two ways to review a book: critically and descriptively.

A descriptive review has a lot of quotes from the book and your impressions about the book while a critical review carries your opinions about the book.

A balanced review would be a mix of both.

Before reviewing a book, it is necessary to read it carefully.

While reading, you may mark some important passages to be quoted. You may also gather your impressions about the author’s view. Most people give a summary of the book when asked to write a book review. A better way to approach this task would be to first give an introduction of the author and genre to which the book belongs( fiction, historical, biographical etc). You may then proceed to talk about the way the book is organised into chapters or subdivisions in the case of non fiction. In the case of fiction, this would be your chance to talk about the plot, theme, characters, sub plots, settings, dialogue and other elements.

One way to make your book review unique is to add your thoughts on the subject matter of the book and to comment on the way the topics have been dealth with.

You may go through to see several reviews of different books.

It is important to identify the purpose of the book as envisaged by the author and give your opinions as to whether you think the author achieved his purpose.

Five grammatical mistakes you must avoid



1. Your vs. you’re

This one drives me insane, and it’s become extremely common among bloggers. All it takes to avoid this error is to take a second and think about what you’re trying to say.

“Your” is a possessive pronoun, as in “your car” or “your blog.” “You’re” is a contraction for “you are,” as in “you’re screwing up your writing by using your when you really mean you are.”

2. It’s vs. Its

This is another common mistake. It’s also easily avoided by thinking through what you’re trying to say.

“It’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” “Its” is a possessive pronoun, as in “this blog has lost its mojo.” Here’s an easy rule of thumb—repeat your sentence out loud using “it is” instead. If that sounds goofy, “its” is likely the correct choice.

3. There vs. Their

This one seems to trip up everyone occasionally, often as a pure typo. Make sure to watch for it when you proofread.

“There” is used many ways, including as a reference to a place (“let’s go there”) or as a pronoun (“there is no hope”). “Their” is a plural possessive pronoun, as in “their bags” or “their opinions.” Always do the “that’s ours!” test—are you talking about more than one person and something that they possess? If so, “their” will get you there.

4. Affect vs. Effect

To this day I have to pause and mentally sort this one out in order to get it right. As with any of the other common mistakes people make when writing, it’s taking that moment to get it right that makes the difference.

“Affect” is a verb, as in “Your ability to communicate clearly will affect your income immensely.” “Effect” is a noun, as in “The effect of a parent’s low income on a child’s future is well documented.” By thinking in terms of “the effect,” you can usually sort out which is which, because you can’t stick a “the” in front of a verb. While some people do use “effect” as a verb (“a strategy to effect a settlement”), they are usually lawyers, and you should therefore ignore them if you want to write like a human.

5. The Dangling Participle

The dangling participle may be the most egregious of the most common writing mistakes. Not only will this error damage the flow of your writing, it can also make it impossible for someone to understand what you’re trying to say.

Check out these two examples from Tom Sant’s book Persuasive Business Proposals:

After rotting in the cellar for weeks, my brother brought up some oranges.

Uhh… keep your decomposing brother away from me!

Featuring plug-in circuit boards, we can strongly endorse this server’s flexibility and growth potential.

Hmmm… robotic copy written by people embedded with circuit boards. Makes sense.

The problem with both of the above is that the participial phrase that begins the sentence is not intended to modify what follows next in the sentence. However, readers mentally expect it to work that way, so your opening phrase should always modify what immediately follows. If it doesn’t, you’ve left the participle dangling, as well as your readers.

P.S. You may find it amusing to know that I, like David Ogilvy, have never learned the formal rules of grammar. I learned to write by reading obsessively at an early age, but when it came time to learn the “rules,” I tuned out. If you show me an incorrect sentence, I can fix it, but if I need to know the technical reason why it was wrong in the first place, I go ask my wife.

Article by Brian Clark


Interesting facts about English

China has more English speakers than the United States .

The sentence “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” uses every
letter in the english language. (Sentences containing every letter of the alphabet are called
“pangrams”, or “holalphabetic sentences”.)

“Bookkeeper” is the only word in English language with three consecutive
double letters.

Colgate faced a big obstacle marketing toothpaste in Spanish speaking
countries because Colgate translates into the command “go hang

“I am.” is the shortest complete sentence in the English language.

Evolving English

Here’s a popular forwarded message doing the rounds:

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as “Euro-English”.

In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard “c” will be dropped in favour of “k”. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with “f”. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where! more komplikated changes are possible.

Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.

Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent “e” in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as
replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”.

During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaining “ou” and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensi bl riten styl.

Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

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