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!
Cloister means to cut off or seclude from the world.
For example, “While Keith was protective of the two new interns from his alma mater, he did not want to cloister them either.”
Nocuous means harmful.
For example, “Unlike several of his colleagues, Keith felt the tweet about the company’s recent drop in the DOW was nocuous and replied with a scathing tweet of his own.”
Plain writing (aka, plain language and plain English) is simply another term for clear and concise writing, something writing instructors have been trying to instill in their students for literally centuries. Plain Writing has a number of definitions. One good one is: “A communication is in plain writing if its wording, structure, and design are so clear that the intended readers can readily find what they need, understand it, and use it.” But Albert Einstein—a plain writing master long before the term was coined—made a keen observation that applies to writing and just about every other human endeavor: “Any fool can make things bigger and more complex, but it takes a touch of genius to go in the other direction.”
Enigmatic means mysterious; relating to or resembling an enigma.
For example, “When asked about his role in the practical joke played on the HR manager, Keith simply gave an enigmatic smile and left the room.”
Put one space after each sentence when using proportionally-spaced fonts, which means just about every font found on a computer including the one on this webpage (notice that an i takes up less than half the character-space width of an m). Put two spaces after sentences when using mono-spaced fonts, such as Courier New and those found on a typewriter. With mono-spaced fonts, an i takes up the exact same character-space width as an m. Reading documents written with mono-spaced fonts becomes, well, monotonous, so someone long ago decided to put two spaces at the end of each sentence to make it more readable and to act as an “eye rest.” It’s hard for some people to make this change because they’ve been putting two spaces at the end of a sentence forever. But if you need final proof of this rule, open any book, newspaper or magazine: you’ll find only one space at the end of each sentence.
Luddite means someone opposed to change, especially technological change.
For example, “Keith mockingly referred to the new hire, who wrote his memos with a pen, refusing to type on a keyboard, as a Luddite.”
Many scholars think so. Without it, the history of the world would be drastically different. The alphabet was invented in Egypt around 2000 B.C. as a writing method to show the sounds of words. Its earliest readers read aloud and reading aloud continued to be the standard practice throughout ancient and medieval times. About 26 major alphabetic scripts are used worldwide. The English alphabet was handed down to us from the Romans (who only had 23 letters in their alphabet; it did not have a J, V, or W). Today, the English alphabet is the most popular script in the world, used by about 100 principal languages, 120 countries and nearly 2 billion people. Because an alphabet is so easy to learn, it became the vehicle of mass literacy, starting with the Egyptians back in 2000 B.C. It allowed farmers, shopkeepers and others of the humblest origins to read and write and, therefore, attain skills and knowledge that improved their lives.
Deportment means behavior, how you conduct yourself.
For example, “Keith’s deportment upon learning his proposal was rejected was less than stellar.”
T.S. Eliot once said, “Good writers borrow, great writers steal.” The English language was following that dictum centuries before Eliot was born. No fewer than 600,000 words have been used in English writing since the twelfth century. So where did they all come from? We, that is, English speakers since the dawn of the language, were very good at stealing them. For example, alcohol and alkali are from Arabic, amok from Malay, bizarre from Basque, okay from West Africa, taboo from Tahitian, and the list goes on and on and on. In 2018, the Oxford English Dictionary‘s latest update added 1,400 new words to the language, from bongga (Tagalog for impressive, excellent or stylish) to belly-bumper (a U.S. term for a head-first ride down a hill on a sled, though it was also used in the 17th century to denote a Rabelaisian womanizer). The English language is a living, constantly expanding organism—and how fun it is to watch it grow!
Secrete means to deposit or conceal in a hiding place.
For example, “Keith planned to secrete his sales forecast for next year in his executive assistant’s storage cabinet.”