Entries by Jane Watson

Opening Lines in Emails

Ildar’s question: “I have been noticing emails from some of my colleagues and clients that start with ‘Hope all is good and you are doing well.’ Is this an appropriate start of a business inquiry?” BizWritingTip response: Thank you for bringing this up. I dislike this opening and so do many of the people who […]

Grammar Tip – Commas With Introductory Phrases

Robert’s question: “My manager has told me to insert a comma after the first few words in a sentence. However, I was taught to use commas wherever I would take a breath. I don’t often take a breath at the beginning of a sentence. What do you think?” BizWritingTip response: The comma-with-a-breath rule is outdated. As […]

Style – A Question of Etiquette

Tuula’s question: “I work for an organization that often receives thank you cards and letters for our staff.  Do we need to acknowledge them by sending a thank you back to the people who wrote them?” BizWritingTip response: A while ago, I asked people to send me their pet peeves with regard to emails. The […]

Word Choice – Next and Last

Lesley’s question: “Please volunteer your opinion on next or last. For example, if in 2014, I said I saw her last Christmas, I take this to mean I saw her at Christmas 2012, not Christmas 2013.” BizWritingTip response: When next or last are used to describe a time, things get complicated. They mean different things to different people – even dictionaries cannot agree. […]

Writing Style – To Verb or Not to Verb

Deane’s question: “In sports, news nouns, such as ‘summit’ and ‘medal,’ are often treated as if they were verbs. For example, someone will write: ‘I don’t expect them to medal in that tournament,’ or ‘he is expected to summit Mount Everest this afternoon.’ Is this correct in formal writing?” BizWritingTip response: What you are concerned about even has a name. […]

Fingers Crossed

Tracey’s question: “Is it fingers crossed or finger’s crossed or fingers’ crossed?” BizWritingTip response: This idiom describes a hand gesture in which the middle finger of either hand is crossed over the top of the index finger of the same hand. When we cross our fingers, we are hoping or wishing that things will happen the […]

Grammar Tip – Proper Adjectives

Pam’s question: “What is a proper adjective and should you capitalize it?” BizWritingTip response: A proper adjective is a word derived from a proper noun. For example, Canadian and American are proper adjectives because they are derived from the proper nouns Canada and America. Proper adjectives are always capitalized. Examples I love Italian desserts. (Italy) We are going to see a Shakespearean play. (Shakespeare) He employs Machiavellian tactics. (Machiavelli) […]

Writing Style – Capitalization

Pam’s question: “Please provide a simple explanation on when federal should be capitalized and when it shouldn’t. The question applies to other modifiers like state or national.” BizWritingTip response: Years ago, when in doubt you were told to capitalize a word. Now the guideline is when in doubt use lowercase. When it comes to words such […]

Connecting Words

Emily’s question: “My pet peeve is people who put words such as however, in addition, or therefore at the beginning of their sentences. We are told to write concisely but this is not concise writing. I think these words should be deleted. BizWritingTip response: One of my concerns is that sometimes when people try to write concisely they come across […]

Checking Your Grammar Knowledge

Rob’s question: I believe my grammar is fairly good. Is there a way I can check if I am as good as I think?” BizWritingTip response: I am impressed with your interest. Too many writers weaken their professional image through poor grammar. I even had a workshop participant tell me recently that he did not bother […]