Writing Style – In Appreciation

BizWritingTip reader: “Please review the following phrase and let me know which one sounds better: ‘in appreciation to’ or ‘in appreciation of.’ ”

BizWritingTip response: When it comes to using the noun “appreciation” meaning “in favourable or grateful recognition,” the correct preposition is “of.”

Therefore, you should say “in appreciation of.”

Wow, that was an easy one this week!

Writing Style – Noon and Midnight

BizWritingTip reader: “How do you record the time between 11:59 a.m. and 12:01 p.m.? Is there a standard other than 12 noon or should it be avoided by altering the time either way by a minute or two?”

BizWritingTip response: This is a question many writers struggle with. But it is actually quite simple. When referring to the times of noon or midnight, use the words alone.


We will meet at noon.
The babysitter is booked until midnight.

Of course, there is an exception. If there is another clock time in the sentence, you must add figures to the noon and midnight designations.


The meeting will run from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.
The store is always closed from 12 noon to 12:45 p.m.

Note: For time on the hour, do not add zeros to indicate minutes.


Our website was down from 12 midnight to 7 p.m.
You can have the conference room from 2 to 3 p.m.

And please don’t ask me whether noon is 12 a.m. or p.m. No one seems to be able to agree on this. However, the U.K. National Maritime Museum does state: “The abbreviation a.m. stands for ante-meridiem (before the sun has crossed the line) and p.m. for post-meridiem (after the sun has crossed the line). At 12 noon, the sun is at its highest point in the sky and directly over the meridian. It is therefore neither ‘ante-‘nor ‘post-.’ ”

Trust you find this information timely.

Writing Style – Titles and Punctuation

BizWritingTip reader: “When I am writing about a report, should I put quotation marks around the title?”

BizWritingTip response: When referring to completed reports, books, magazines, newspapers, or pamphlets, you should bold or italicize the title. Never use more than one design technique.


I need to replace my copy of the Paperback Oxford Canadian Dictionary.

I am upset that the magazine Golf For Women is no longer being published.

Other items that should be bolded or italicized are movies, plays, musicals, operas, television and radio series, long poems or musical pieces, paintings and sculpture.

Note: Another option – but not as popular – is to put the title all in capital letters.

But what about quotation marks? Use quotation marks around titles that represent only part of a completed work, e.g., chapter titles, sections, columns in a newspaper, conference themes, and speech titles.


Did you read the chapter “13 Ways to Mind Your Reader’s Business” in Business Writing Basics.

This year’s theme for the conference is “Protecting Our Nurses.”
I am speaking on “Report Writing to Council” in Thunder Bay in December.

You should also use quotation marks around the titles of complete but unpublished works, such as manuscripts, dissertations, and reports.


I will edit your report “Strategic Thinking for 2009” tomorrow so it will be ready for the meeting. (The report is not yet ready for release.)

Note: Only use double quotes. Single quotes are for quotes within quotes and for newspaper headlines.



Writing Style – C or c. or Copy to

BizWritingTip reader: “Can you let me know what the new format is to copy someone on a business letter? Is it C: or c:?”

BizWritingTip response: Although the notation in emails is Cc, this is considered outdated in business letters. The term c.c. was originally used to indicate a carbon copy. We no longer use carbon paper. Some people now refer to c.c. as courtesy copy – whatever that means.

You only need one “c.” Keep in mind the rules for abbreviations. If you are using lower case letters, you need to add periods: c.


c. Susan Smith

However, if your abbreviation is in capital letters – except for a few exceptions – there is no need for a period.


C Susan Smith

Whether you opt for lower case or capital letters is up to you.

A colon (:) is used only with more than one name because you are then creating a list.


c.: Susan Smith
Jessica Oh

C: Susan Smith
Jessica Oh

Frankly, I don’t like this abbreviation. I prefer to spell it out: Copy to. I think it looks cleaner whether you have only one name or a list.


Copy to Susan Smith

Copy to: Susan Smith
Jessica Oh



Writing Style – Cont. or Cont’d.

Connie’s question: “I was wondering what you thought the correct abbreviation for continued would be?  Is there a standard?”

BizwritingTip response: Some words have set abbreviations, e.g., Mr., Sr., and Inc. You will find official abbreviations in the dictionary. Other words are abbreviated by leaving out letters and inserting an apostrophe, e.g., can’t or it’s. We also call them contractions.

According to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary and The Chicago Manual of Style, the abbreviation for continued is cont.

However, some writers also use cont’d. They have abbreviated the word by omitting letters.

This is a style issue. As long as your reader understands your meaning, you could use either word. When deciding whether to use an official abbreviation or a contracted word, the guideline is to choose whichever one is the shortest and the most clear.

Note: Contracted words should only be used in informal writing, such as letters or emails, or in tables when space is limited.

Writing Style – Listing Job Responsibilities

BizWritingTip reader: “How do you punctuate a list of things, such as your job responsibilities? Also, does the tense of the verb have to be the same in each line? How do you show something that you have done in the past, but you do not do on a regular basis?”

BizWritingTip response: First, there is no need to put any punctuation at the end of each point if you have written them as sentence fragments. The first letter of each point can be capitalized, or all can be in lower case letters – your choice.

Normally, all verbs in a list should be in the same tense. With your current job, the present tense is correct, and with previous jobs the past tense is used. As you noted, sometimes there are activities that relate to your present job, but they have been completed and will probably not recur. In this case, break the consistency rule and use a past tense verb.

However, I recommend you group the activities so that everything you do on a regular basis is together and everything relating to a finished activity follows. This way, you will not create a “disconnect” in your reader’s mind.

Examples (not recommended)

Maintain and update database

Researched information for the new company brochure

Assist with processing invoices

Co-ordinated last two company relocations

Examples (recommended

Maintain and update database

Assist with processing invoices

Co-ordinated last two company relocations

Researched information for the new company brochure

It is always good to know the rules and when to follow them.

Note: The Oxford Canadian Dictionary accepts “coordinated” and “co-ordinated.” The Canadian Press Caps and Spelling book accepts only “co-ordinated.” Generally, Canadian style is to place a hyphen between two identical vowels, such as in “co-operated,” “co-opted,” and “co-op.”

Writing Style – To Capitalize or Not to Capitalize

BizWritingTip reader: “In my line of work, I often write letters to committee members and physicians something like this: ‘We are pleased to hear that you accepted Gayle Sawyer into the Internal Medicine Program.’

“My question is should the word program have a capital letter? We have noticed on occasions that program was typed with a cap and without a cap. What is the correct way?“

BizWritingTip response: First, a general answer, the trend in Canada with regard to capitalization is the modified down style. In other words — as always — you should capitalize all official titles, names, religions, languages, races, places, and addresses. However, if you are using shortened versions of titles or are using a proper noun in a plural form, opt for the lower case. The same holds true for job descriptions.

Government of Ontario (proper name)
Ontario government (shortened version)
City of Edmonton (proper name)
cities of Edmonton and Calgary (plural form of proper noun)
Doctor Skipper (title)
doctor (job description)
board (informal reference)

But let’s get back to the question relating to the word “program.” According to The Canadian Press Stylebook, you should capitalize universities and colleges but not their departments.

University of Toronto
McGill medical school
department of engineering
English department
faculty of education

The book also advises to use the lower case for names of courses and programs.

political sciences program
ethics course

Using this information then, you would write: “We are pleased to hear that you accepted Gayle Sawyer into the internal medicine program.”

However, if your organization dictates that certain words must be capitalized — for example, Doctors, Board, Committee, or Region — naturally, I would expect you to follow your organization’s style.

Writing Style – Split Infinitives

BizWritingTip reader: “In a previous BizWritingTip, you wrote: ‘He said he liked to only read in his native language.’ I believe its placement should appear as follows: ‘He said he liked to read only in his native language.’ ”

BizWritingTip response: Thank you for the feedback. However, I really liked splitting my infinitive in this sentence.

An infinitive is a verb with the word “to” in front of it.

Examplesof an infinitive
To read
To write
To excel

The rules for English were based on Latin. In Latin, the infinitive is a single word. So when the monks were establishing the rules for written language, they came up with the idea that it was bad form to split an infinitive when translating Latin into English.

Examplesof split infinitives
To only read
To quickly write
To easily excel

This rule — not to split an infinitive — is now considered out of date although there are many people who still defend it. In fact, some GMAT, SAT, and TOEFL tests still check for it.

However, in business writing, splitting an infinitive is permitted as it sounds conversational. I know when I speak I would normally say, “to only read,” rather than “to read only.” That’s why I chose to write it that way.

By the way, do you remember the most famous example of a split infinitive? Think back to the opening credits of the old television show Star Trek: These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission — to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Would Captain James Tiberius Kirk have been as triumphant if he had been told “to go boldly”?

Writing Style – Contractions

BizWritingTip reader: “I received an email that contained the word these’re. A list of clients was provided and the message stated ‘I think these’re deceased clients.’ Is this correct grammar? Can any word be used in a contraction? It looked a little strange to me.”

BizWritingTip response: A contraction is a word or phrase that has been shortened by using an apostrophe to indicate missing letters. For example, it is orit has can be reduced to it’s.

There are two types of contractions. The first relates to the shortening of a verb accompanied by the word not.

Should not = shouldn’t
Would not = wouldn’t
Do not = don’t
Cannot = can’t

The second type of contraction relates to pronouns and verbs that are either helping verbs or variations of the word to be. The apostrophe may replace one or more letters.

I would = I’d
I have = I’ve
We will = we’ll

The only contraction that does not fall into one of these two categories is let’s meaning let us.

Contractions can be used in spoken English and in informal writing such as emails. I am now starting to see contractions used in letters — when the writer wants to use a warm, conversational tone.

Contractions should not be used in formal writing such as reports.

Now back to the original question: these’re. Frankly, although it does follow under the pronoun and verb category, it could not be used in spoken English. It would sound quite sloppy — coming out as “these-er clients” rather than “these are clients.” Therefore, as you can’t say it, don’t write it.

I’m trusting you’ll be able to put this information to good use.

Writing Style – Third Person Pronouns in Reports

BizWritingTip reader: “When writing a report is it correct to always use the third person?”

BizWritingTip response: Third person pronouns are the words he or she, it, they and their variations. Yes, you can use these pronouns in a report, but I would never say “always.”

Before you begin a report, you need to determine both the purpose of the document and the tone you want to create.

There are three tones every successful business writer must be able to use: formal, neutral, or informal.

Up until eight years ago, reports were written with a formal tone, letters with a neutral tone, and emails an informal.

I am now finding that many companies are reducing their use of the formal tone in reports. A formal tone avoids most personal pronouns (I, me, we, you)and uses passive voice sentences and the third person pronoun “it.” The sentences are long and the paragraphs lengthy. This type of writing offers little “reader buy-in” and is considered cold. Many people find it boring. But it does create an objective feel.

Example (formal tone sentence)

Over $50,000 was earned during the first quarter. (passive voice sentence)

A neutral tone is becoming more popular in reports as it has a little more warmth and tends “to pull” the reader into the message. A neutral tone uses first (we) and third person pronouns (except for it) and active voice sentences.

Example (neutral tone sentence)

We earned over $50,000 during the first quarter. (active voice sentence with a first person pronoun)

An informal tone uses active voice sentences and lots of personal pronouns with an emphasis on the first and second person pronouns: I, we and you. An informal tone is not sloppy. It is conversational and friendly. Initially, only emails were written with an informal tone, but I am noticing that many writers now use this tone in letters – when they want to create a bond with the reader.

Example (informal tone sentence)

Because of your efforts, we earned over $50,000 during the first quarter.

“Was it helpful that this answer was provided? Or “Did this answer help you?” Formal versus informal? Your choice.