Our blog explores all aspects of writing and proofreading, and passes along effective business writing tips. Do you have questions or concerns about workplace writing? Then join our discussion!
Tip: Don’t overuse the to be verb (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) or the have verb (have, has, had) in your sentences. When you edit your work, look for any forms of these verbs and replace them with stronger ones. Choose verbs that have specific meanings, so readers aren’t left with vague descriptions. For example, revise “The CEO has a positive effect on our company” to eliminate the weak has verb and revise the sentence so that it describes what the “positive effect” actually is: “The CEO brings strong leadership to our company.” Also, use the present and past tenses of verbs—it keeps your writing more immediate and “in the present”—instead of the present- and past-progressive tenses. For example, replace “She is thinking” with “She thinks” or “He is working” with “He works.”
Mark Twain wrote by following rules. His own. Here is one we should all follow: “Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very. Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” This is a humorous way of saying, “Eliminate unnecessary words. Everything you write should be clear and concise.” Words we can all write by.
Vicarious means experiencing in your imagination what someone is actually feeling or doing.
For example, “Keith derived vicarious pleasure from the misfortune of the CFO, his office nemesis.“
Nemesis means an enemy or long-standing rival.
For example, “Keith considered the CFO his nemesis, ever since the person disallowed half the meals on his expense report.“
Bonhomie means good-natured friendliness; geniality.
For example, “Keith worked hard to create a bonhomie among his sales team.“
Surfeit means excess; overabundant supply.
For example, “The CEO presented a surfeit of ideas during the meeting, but Keith thought they were all foolish.“
It’s National Proofreading Day on March 8th! As a gift from The Executive Writer, here is a list of proofreading tips that will ensure everything you write is clear, concise and error-free:
- Use a spell checker and grammar checker on the document as a first screening, but don’t depend on them.
- Then print out the document you need to proofread.
- Read it out loud once and then a second time silently.
- Read it backwards to focus on the spelling of words.
- As you read, use a screen (such as a blank sheet of paper) to cover the material not yet proofed.
- Point with your finger to read one word at a time.
- Don’t proof for every type of mistake at once—do one proof for spelling, another for missing/additional spaces, consistency of word usage, font sizes, etc.
- Keep a list of your most common errors and proof for those on separate “trips.”
- Ask yourself who, what, when, where, why, and how when proofreading for content. Does the text answer all the questions you think it should?
- Write at the end of the day; proofread first thing in the morning. (Usually, getting some sleep in between helps.)
- Listen to music or chew gum. Proofreading can be boring business. Anything that can relieve your mind of some of the pressure, while allowing you to still keep focused, is a benefit.
- Have others read proofread your document.
It’s National Grammar Day! But what, exactly, do we mean by the word, grammar? Most people define it very simply as “writing rules.” But grammar has a much more extensive and complex definition. What better day than today to take a closer look at the word:
Grammar is the study of words, how they are used in sentences, and how they change in different situations.The Ancient Greeks used to call it grammatikē tékhnē or “the craft of letters.” The word, however, can have any of these meanings:
- The study of a language: how it works, and everything about it. This is referred to as “background research on language.”
- The study of sentence structure. Rules and examples show how the language should be used. This is referred to as “correct usage grammar,” as in a textbook or writing guide.
- The system which people learn as they grow up. This is referred to as “native-speaker’s grammar.”
When we speak, we use the native person’s grammar, or as near as we can. When we write, we try to write with correct grammar. So, speaking and writing a language each have their own style.
Circumscribe means to draw a line around; to constrict with a boundary.
For example, “Keith felt that his authority was being circumscribed by the new CEO.“
Acquiesce mean to submit, comply, or accept.
For example, “Keith acquiesced to his sales team’s demand that he stop micromanaging them.“