Word Choice – Coordinate Versus Facilitate

Dee’s question: “Please provide some examples on the proper usage of the words ‘facilitates’ and ‘coordinates.’ ”

BizWritingTip response: “To facilitate” means to make something easier or less difficult. It also involves assisting or leading people to arrive at an understanding.

He was hired to facilitate a panel discussion on the economy. (He will not present his own opinions – just ensure the members of the panel explore the topic.)
Her presence will facilitate a speedy resolution to the problem. (A formal way of saying her presence will help us resolve the problem faster.)

“To co-ordinate” is to bring the various elements of an activity or organization into an agreeable or efficient relationship.

Please co-ordinate with the communications department to ensure the announcement goes out next week. (Please work with the communications department.)
He is responsible for co-ordinating the company move. (He is responsible for all the organizational elements.)

Facilitate and coordinate are not interchangeable. When in doubt, think of “assisting.” If you are assisting, you are facilitating. If you are organizing, you are coordinating.

Note: With regard to the hyphen in co-ordinate, The Canadian Press Caps and Spelling book prefers “co-ordinate.” Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and The Chicago Manual of Style use “coordinate.” The Oxford Dictionary accepts both.

Word Choice – Last Versus Latest

Rob’s question: “I just received an email saying that the attachment was the ‘last update on the project.’ As the project will continue for six more months is this correct?”

BizWritingTip response: “The last update” implies you are receiving the final update on the project. You will not be receiving anything else.

The sender should have said “the latest update.” “Latest” refers to “the most recent.”

Other Examples (Correct)
I read about the move in the last newsletter. (This would mean the newsletter was never published again.)
I read about the move in the latest newsletter. (This would refer to the newsletter most recently published.)

Word Choice – As Of Versus As At

Gigi’s question: “I would like to know the difference between ‘as at’ and ‘as of.’ ”

BizWritingTip response: As of is used to indicate a time or date at which something begins or ends. Although precise, it sounds rather formal.

The project was terminated as of January 1. (Less formal: The project has been terminated since January 1.)
You will be able to access the system as of 3 p.m. (Less formal: You should be able to access the system after 3 p.m.)

I checked a number of North American dictionaries but could not find a mention of “as at.” However, a friend in the accounting industry says it is used when referring to a snapshot of a position at a particular time in a financial document, such as a balance sheet. For example, “As at January 30, the organization is exceeding its sales projections for the quarter.”

Word Choice – Overblown Language

Candice’s question: “In my office, several people are now saying and writing ‘My ask of you is…’ when they are requesting action. Is this correct?  It seems to me it should be “May I ask you to…?”

BizWritingTip response: Wow! This statement is funny and is also wrong in many ways. First, it comes across as pretentious and convoluted. It is definitely not speech I would expect from an office professional of this century.

Second, the phrase is grammatically incorrect. The word “ask” is a verb. But the user has changed it to a noun. I know new words are constantly creeping into the language, but I would wait until you see them in the dictionary.

Third, today’s plain language writing requirements encourage a focus on the receiver rather than on the sender. By starting with “my ask,” the speaker/writer is placing him or herself before the receiver. Bad idea!

“May I ask you to …” is a little better but is still formal and the focus remains with the speaker/writer. In addition, you are requesting the reader’s permission to ask them to do something. What if they said, “No. You don’t have my permission to ask me”? It’s not likely, but it is possible.

I suggest you try something more direct, such as “Would you please …” or what about just saying “Please do xxx.” To make it less curt, you could precede or follow the request with “why” you need them to do it.

Word Choice – Dislike Versus Do Not Like

Jennifer’s question: “A bone of contention has arisen as to whether ‘dislike’ is synonymous with ‘do not like.’ For example, I maintain that the statements ‘We do not like tardiness’ and ‘We dislike tardiness’ are synonymous.”
BizWritingTip response: I understand your rationale. According to the dictionary, both phrases – dislike and do not like — have the same meaning. However, on an emotional level, any sentence containing the word not tends to come across as both more formal and harsher.

Therefore, if I wanted to create a strong tone, I would use the longer version.

I do not like having to wait for your report. (Underlying thought: I am very annoyed.)
We do not like tardiness. (Underlying thought: We are irritated.)

If I do not want to be as emphatic, I would choose dislike.

I dislike driving in the rain. (Underlying thought: I am not happy about it.)
We dislike tardiness. (Underlying thought: We are not happy about lateness.)

Word Choice – No Later Than

Delores’ question: “In many of our communications, we need to specify a response within a certain timeframe. The format currently being used is ‘Please confirm your attendance by no later than (date).’ Could you also write ‘Please confirm your attendance by (date)’?”

BizWritingTip response: Both versions are correct. It all depends on the tone you want to create.

“By no later than” indicates any time up to and including that date. It is a more formal type of speech and emphasizes you are quite serious about your request. Some readers find it dictatorial. It works well in legal situations or when a non-response within a critical timeframe could have dire results.

Simply stating “by March 1” indicates any time up until that date but is a little vague on whether the date is also included. It is a much softer approach. As today’s business readers are often overly sensitive, I prefer this technique in regular correspondence. But I do enforce the deadline with a reason for my request. That way I am treating my reader as a team player – not as a child.


The restaurant requires us to commit to the number of people staying for dinner. Therefore, please confirm your attendance by Friday.

Word Choice – Continual Versus Continuous

Linden’s  question: “I’m wondering about the difference between ‘continuous’ and ‘continual.’ We’re trying to develop a mission statement and are debating whether we trying to ‘continually achieve excellence’ or are trying to ‘continuously achieve excellence.’ Or does it matter which word we use?”

BizWritingTip response: These two words are often interchanged but, according to the Oxford dictionary, they have different meanings. Continual refers to something that is constantly or frequently reoccurring. In other words, although it happens often there are intervals in between.

I am continually forced to edit his reports. (It happens often.)
The weather forecasters say it will snow continually in January.  (Expect a number of snowfalls.)

On the other hand, continuous means unbroken or uninterrupted. It occurs non-stop.

The continuous flickering of the lights in the boardroom drove me crazy. (constant flickering)
We are trying to continuously achieve excellence. (always)

Years ago, people had to continually (frequently) wind their watches to ensure the timepieces were running continuously (always).

Question: With regard to the mission statement, wouldn’t it be easier to just “strive for excellence”?

Word Choice – Bring Versus Take

Lisa’s question: “Yesterday I heard a co-worker telling someone that a friend was going to bring her to the movies. For some reason, that statement made me cringe as it just sounded grammatically incorrect.  Should she not have stated that a friend was going to take her to the movies?”

BizWritingTip response: Bring and take imply movement with direction. Bring means to move toward the speaker’s location. Take means to move from the speaker’s location.

Bring me the report later today. (Move the report to my location.)
Take the report to the meeting. (Move it from its location to the meeting.)
I need to take a change of clothes to the gym. (The clothes must be moved from their position to the gym.)
I will bring you a change of clothes. (The clothes will be moved to you.)

In your example, your co-worker is being moved from a position to the movies. Therefore, her friend is taking her to the movies. Once they are there, I hope the friend brings her popcorn.

Word Choice – To Versus Too

Peter’s question: “I run into problems in labelling column headers. For example, ‘Sent too’ looks wrong, but ‘Sent to’ looks grammatically incorrect. My understanding is that ‘to’ is the verb form while ‘too’ is a place.”

BizwritingTip response: I think your confusion lies in the many uses of the word “to.” As a preposition, it is used with a verb, e.g., to golf or to write.

However, when it is used as an adverb, it implies direction. I remember it as “to” being part of “toward.” Therefore, “sent to” is correct. Also correct: Where are you going to?

“Too” has several meanings. It can imply “also” or “as well,” but it is also used as a substitute for “very” or “overly.”

He is too hot. (He is overly hot.)
He is hot too. (He is hot as well.)
Would you like to come too? (Would you like to come also?)

Word Choice – Thank You or Thank-You

Rob’s question: “Is ‘thank you’ a hyphenated word? For example, should I write ‘thank you for your help’ or ‘thank-you for your help’?”

BizWritingTip response: To express gratitude use the two words thank you – without the hyphen.


Thank you for your help.

If you are familiar with British English, you probably learned to write thank-you. However, several years ago, hyphens were dropped from many English words, e.g., bumble-bee, ice-cream, and thank-you.

The only time you should use a hyphen with the word is when you are using it as an adjective.


I need to send them a thank-you gift.
Did you send a thank-you card?

Thank you for reading.