Archive for February, 2012

The punctuation mistake you never knew you were making

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Here’s a grammar rule that’ll come as a big surprise to many of you: 95% of the time you shouldn’t put a comma before the word however.

Yep, you’ve been punctuating it wrong all these years. We know because we see this mistake all the time. In fact, it’s probably the most common error we see. (more…)

Business writers: show, don’t tell

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

If you’ve ever taken a creative writing class, you’ll be familiar with the phrase “show, don’t tell”.

It’s the age-old exhortation not to describe what’s happening in the story, but rather to allow your reader to experience it through the characters’ actions, thoughts and feelings.

Now, we’re no novelists, but we still find ourselves saying “show, don’t tell” to clients several times a week. What we usually mean is “be concrete and specific, not abstract and general”. (more…)

Fight on the beaches!

Monday, February 13th, 2012

We love this anecdote from The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill, compiled by Dominique Enright:

There is a story that an American general once asked Churchill to look over the draft of an address he had written. It was returned with the comment ‘Too many passives and too many zeds.’ The general asked him what he meant and was told: ‘Too many Latinate polysyllabics like “systematize”, “prioritize”, and “finalize”. And then the passives. What if I had said, instead of “we shall fight on the beaches”, “Hostilities will be engaged with our adversary on the coastal perimeter”?

Sadly, all too much business writing is reminiscent of “Hostilities will be engaged with our adversary on the coastal perimeter”.

So if you struggle to get the people in your organisation to talk like human beings, point them to Winston.

Inspiring leaders use short, simple, powerful words.

Not pompous corpspeak packed with off-putting nonsense about synergizing innovative technologies, incentivizing customer engagement and integrating frameworks of excellence.

For more on the Latinate quality of much bad business writing see Speak English, why don’t you?