10 Words Often Misspelled in Business Correspondence

Most word processing programs have a built-in spell checker, but business correspondence still goes out with misspelled words that a checker would have caught. I’m not talking about words like bare and bear, which are both English words acceptable to an automatic spelling program, but words like definite and separate, which have no homophones, and … Read more

Email Matters

The ease of dashing off an email is both a convenience and a deadly snare. Emails are not as public as a Twitter tweet, but can lead to grief for the unwary. We’ve all heard the horror stories of the jokester who says something outrageous intended for the eyes of a friend, and then hits … Read more

10 Techniques for More Precise Writing

Here are ten ways to produce more vivid, direct, concise prose by replacing wordy phrases with fewer words and reorganizing sentences. It is not advisable to employ these strategies indiscriminately, but prose will usually be improved by following the recommendations below. 1. Use Active Voice When a sentence includes be or any other copulative verb, … Read more

Amendment and Silent Correction of Quoted Content

What do you do when you wish to incorporate a quotation from another source into your own content, but the quotation includes a flaw in spelling, grammar, or the like, or you want to use the quotation selectively? How and whether you amend quoted material depends on the content and the context. In a formal … Read more

7 Types of Headline Headaches

Throughout the history of journalism, headlines have evolved as a method for distilling the content of an article into a handful of words that will draw readers into the piece, and they serve that function for other types of informative content such as newsletters and reports. However, in publications that are not carefully edited, especially … Read more

10 Interviewing Tips and Techniques

Whether you are conducting a journalistic Q&A session or preparing an oral history, it’s important to prepare carefully for an interview. Here are some guidelines to help you succeed with the interview session. 1. Be Straightforward When you contact an interview subject, state your objective clearly and honestly. The nature of the interview you conduct … Read more

How to Present Your Content

During a drive yesterday, I noticed again two ways that, in casual contexts, people are careless about their communication. For the first time, however, I realized that unfortunately, there’s a close analogy between the way many amateur writers present information and the way some well-meaning professionals (or other serious writers) do it. First, I noticed … Read more

Working with an Editor

Anyone can publish without an editor. Some people can even publish very well-written content without any editorial assistance. But most can’t, and guessing that you’re in the smaller category is a great risk. Why not hire an editor? What does an editor do? There are many types of editors, with distinct skill sets and responsibilities, … Read more

5 Steps to Completing Your First Draft

Follow these stages of preparation and production to assemble a first draft of written (or spoken) content. 1. Identify Your Purpose What is the reason for writing the content? Are you objectively presenting information? If so, is it for educational purposes, or for entertainment — or both? Are you writing to help someone make a … Read more

7 Tips for Writing an Email Message

What’s so difficult about writing an email? Nothing. That’s the problem: It’s too easy, and you should take care that a professional message is just that — especially if you use email primarily for social interaction and are unaccustomed to sending business emails. Here are some guidelines for businesslike electronic communication. 1. If you write … Read more

An Online Tool Hyperlocally Targets Language Usage

According to a recent news article, thanks to Internet magic, online companies can identify hyperlocal vocabulary, which might have an impact on language usage and the development of tomorrow’s vocabulary. Yelp, the popular online search and review site, now has a feature on its site called Wordmaps, which shows visitors the concentration of use of … Read more

Take Care with Dysphemisms

You probably know what a euphemism is: putting lipstick on a pig, as in using the expression “pass away” in place of the word die, or “enhanced interrogation” instead of torture. Is dysphemism — essentially, the opposite concept — any more problematic? Just as a euphemism cloaks a disagreeable or offensive concept with an innocuous … Read more