Word Choice – So

If you are starting an independent clause (a group of words containing a subject, verb and expressing a complete thought) with the word so, you have two options: 1. If the clause in front is short and easily fits with the new thought, then place a comma before so. Correct The photocopier is constantly breaking down, so […]

Word Choice – Organize or Organise

Gail’s question: “It is becoming more difficult to remember the correct Canadian spelling of words, especially since Microsoft software only references American grammar and spelling.  For example, I would spell “organisation” with an ‘s.’ Is this correct?” BizWritingTip response: My favourite reference books for Canadian spelling are The Canadian Press Caps and Spelling and the […]

Word Choice – Affect Versus Effect

Affect and effect are two words that are often confused. A good rule to remember is to use affect for a verb and effect for a noun. However, if you are someone who struggles with determining nouns and verbs, here is an easier way to choose the right word. If you can substitute the words influence or change in the […]

Word Choice – Disinterested Versus Uninterested

Rick’s question: “Is there a difference between ‘disinterested’ and ‘uninterested’?  Or are they interchangeable?” BizWritingTip response:  Thank you for pointing out this common error. Yes, many people do interchange these words. But they have different meanings. “Disinterested” means unbiased or impartial. In other words, a disinterested person cannot be influenced to his or her own […]

Word Choice – Amongst and Whilst

Several BizWritingTip readers have questioned the use of amongst and whilst. According to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, amongst is interchangeable with among, meaning between. Normally, among is used when referring to two or more things. Correct Let’s divide the work equally among us. Let’s divide the work equally amongst us. Note: Although amongst is considered acceptable, I do not see many people using it. […]

Word Choice – First Versus Firstly

Dominique’s question: “Which sentence is correct: ‘Firstly, I would like to let you know that …’ or ‘First of all, I would like to let you know …’ I wrote to a colleague in the States who claims she has never heard of the word ‘firstly.’ ” Bizwritingtip response: This is a writing style issue […]

Word Choice – Until Versus Till

A BizWtitingTip reader wants to know when you use until versus till. Until is a preposition and means “up to or as late as,” “up to the time of,” “up to the time when,” and “so long that.” Examples We waited until 6 p.m. The project was on time until the project manager left. I worked on the computer until […]

Writing Style – Than Versus Then (plus appropriate pronouns)

A BizWritingTip reader wants to know the difference between than and then. ?Than is a conjunction and is normally used with comparisons. ?Then is an adverb meaning soon afterward. Example He believes a consultant could prepare a better report than we.* (A comparison is indicated.) Example After hearing his news, we then began to question the estimated costs for the […]

Word Choice – Might and May

A BizWritingTip reader asked, “Can you explain the difference between might and may?” Yes, I can. Both might and may imply permission or possibility. And might is the past tense of may. Examples The figures may be accurate. (possibility) You may include the cleaning bill in your expense account. (permission) I might have been able […]

Word Choice – Talked To Versus Spoke To

A BizWritingTip reader asked me to explain the difference between talked to and spoke to. Both words are the past tenses of words with similar meanings. Spoke to means “held a conversation with.” Talked to means “communicated ideas, information, or feelings in spoken words.” However, talked to is deemed a little more forceful as it […]