Word Choice – Can Versus Could

I had a question from a BizWritingTip reader recently. She wrote: “I always have trouble using ‘can’ and ‘could’ in a sentence. Could you please provide some examples?” Well, not only could I provide some examples, I can. The word “can” expresses power or ability. Example I can provide the answer to your question.?I can […]

Email Tip – Organizing Letters and Emails

How do people read letters and emails? Remember today’s readers are skimmers, and they want key information quickly. They also try to quickly prioritize a message to determine how much time they need to spend on it.??Because letters have been around so long, people are familiar with their layout. Busy people tend to read the […]

Grammar Tip – Which Versus That

Many people are confused about when to use “which” and when to use “that.” Often times, it is a subjective call on the part of the writer. “Which” means the words following are not essential to the meaning of the sentence. In other words, the information adds a new element the reader may not need. […]

Word Choice – Comprise Versus Compose

Marion’s question: “It would be helpful if you dealt with the correct usage of the verb ‘comprise.’ I believe it is incorrectly used in the example from another BizWritingTip: ‘The NAFTA Secretariat is comprised of a Canadian Section, a Mexican Section and a United States Section.’ ” BizWritingTip response: Back in the days of the dinosaurs, […]

Grammar Tip – Articles With Acronyms

Terry’s question: “I tend to not use the word ‘the’ in front of acronyms, but I see this used in documents more and more.  Which is correct:  ‘REIP provides regional outreach services to Northeastern Ontario’ or ‘The REIP provides regional outreach services to Northeastern Ontario’?  If the word ‘program’ is added after REIP, I would use ‘the.’ ” BizWritingTip response: Grammatically, […]

Word Choice – Talk To or Talk About

Nat’s question: “Lately, I have seen quite a few people write ‘I will talk to it at the meeting,’ meaning a particular subject. This sounds weird to me. You can talk to someone but you should talk about a particular subject. Please enlighten me.” BizWritingTip response: You are absolutely right. The phrase “talk to” is used […]

Email Tip – Closing an Email

Karen’s question: “I receive numerous emails daily from staff and other community contacts who end their messages with ‘cheers’ or ‘thanks much.’ Whatever happened to closing with ‘sincerely’ or a simple ‘thank you’? What is the appropriate way of ending an internal email or one received by a fellow service worker from outside your business?” BizWritingTip response: […]

Word Choice – Couple and Pair

Jo’s question: “Can you please help me with the following sentences: ?The couple is/are here to see you. ?A couple has/have bought a lot of groceries. ?The pair of shoes are/is gone. ?Whose pair of shoes are/is this/these?” BizWritingTip response: There are two questions here but both relate to subject and verb agreement. The guideline […]

Writing Style – Rules for Numbers

Laura’s question: “How do you write numbers in sentences? Do you spell out the number or can you write 10. Are there different rules if the sentence starts with a number?” BizWritingTip response: The guideline for writing numbers in sentences is to spell out numbers from one to nine. Ten and over you use figures. […]

Word Choice – To Google or Not to Google

Odesh’s question: “Many people now use the word “Google” as a verb to indicate searching the Internet. Is this still informal or is it acceptable in formal writing?” BizWritingTip response: “Google” became the proprietary name for the popular Internet search engine in the 1990s. However, according to Oxford Dictionaries Online, it is now used as a verb […]