I Versus We

Marina’s question: “When do I use ‘I’ in a document and when do I use ‘we’? Are they interchangeable?” BizWritingTip blog response: First of all, yes, you can use both I and we in the same business document. Years ago, you were only supposed to use “we.” Nowadays, I means you personally. We refers to everyone who works for your organization. Examples If you […]

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. […]

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 […]

Closing Lines in Business Documents

Heather’s question: “In one of your biztips, you closed with ‘Trust this helps.’ Should it not be ‘I trust this helps’?” BizWritingTip response: You are right in your thinking. “Trust this helps” is not a complete sentence. However, in business writing, it is common practice to be a little less strict with our closing lines in […]

Writing Style – Numbers Beginning a Sentence

Kathryn’s question: “When starting a sentence with a number, should it be printed numerically or alphabetically?” BizWritingTip response: Here is a great example of how technology drives changes in our writing. The rule in this instance was quite simple. If a number started a sentence, you had to write it out. And you would always rearrange […]

Writing Style – He Versus They

Nicole’s question: “I recently received an email from an employee looking for clarity between he and they.  If you are not sure of the gender would you say ‘He will attend training’ or ‘They will attend training’?” BizWritingTip response:  The answer to this question has changed over time.  In the past, writers used the pronouns he, his, him or himself […]

Writing Style – Commas After But?

Taranjit’s question:  “Should we put a comma after ‘but’ in the following sentence: I am sorry to hear you’re leaving the department. But (comma?) I know you will enjoy your new position.” BizWritingTip response: Good question. If your connecting word is only one syllable (e.g., and or but), do not place a comma after it. […]

Writing Style – Starting a Sentence With “But”

Tammy’s question: “I’ve always thought that it is not appropriate to start a sentence using ‘but.’ What are your thoughts?” BizWritingTip response: Starting a sentence with but is not a grammar error. It is a style issue. In the academic world, the writing style is formal. Therefore, starting a sentence with but would be inappropriate […]

Writing Style – Contractions in Minutes

Marg’s question: “My manager says I can’t use contractions in my minutes. What do you think?”BizWritingTip response: First, contractions are words that are shortened by replacing a letter or letters with an apostrophe. Examples Cannot = can’t It is/it has = it’s We will = we’ll Contractions are not wrong, but they are considered a less […]

Writing Style – Smothered Verbs

Paul’s question: “My manager was talking about smothered verbs last week. What are they and why should we avoid them?”BizWritingTip response: Smothered verbs deal with style. There is nothing wrong with them grammatically. Smothered verbs are created when writers take our strong English verbs and turn them into nouns. They then have to insert another verb […]