Traditional authors, journalists, and those in academia usually follow their organization’s or publisher’s chosen style guide. But if you’re an independent author, blogger, or business owner, you can decide which style guide is best for your writing. Today’s post provides an overview of the “big four” style guides in American English: The Associated Press Stylebook (AP … [Read more...] about Which Style Guide Is Best for You?
Like the majority of Generation Xers, I was born in the decade of disco, leisure suits, and questionable mustaches. Does that mean I was born in the 1970s, the ’70s, or the seventies? Today’s post answers that question by analyzing how to write decades as complete numerals and words as well as abbreviated numerals. Should We Write Decades as Numerals or Words? As a general … [Read more...] about How to Write Decades as Words and Numerals
Today, we’re going to cover five tips for writing online instructions. These tips also apply to online tutorials and other how-to material. Important Note: The following tips are for general, unregulated instructions. If you are writing, editing, or publishing instructions for regulated products, services, or activities, contact your legal advisor to ensure that your … [Read more...] about Five Tips for Writing Online Instructions
I previously published a post called "Five Helpful Writing and Editing Websites and Blogs." A five-item list is a measly attempt for such a large topic, so today’s post expands that original list to ten writing websites and blogs. These resources cover a wide variety of subjects, so I’m confident that you’ll find something here that you can apply to your business or nonfiction … [Read more...] about Ten Helpful Writing Websites and Blogs
Headings are usually just a few words each, but they can play a vital role in your document’s success. Their most important function is helping readers navigate your content. (No one benefits when readers are cast adrift!) And when headings are constructed with parallel structure, they also enforce consistency throughout your content and demonstrate attention to good writing … [Read more...] about Polish Your Headings with Parallel Structure
Fiction writers are often encouraged to write with reckless abandon—just write, write, write . . . drink a lot of coffee . . . and then write some more. I’m sure many fantastic novels, poems, and screenplays have emerged from this overly caffeinated do-it-now technique. But as business writers, we are more successful when we take the time to prepare before doing any actual … [Read more...] about Seven Preparation Tips for Effective Business Writing
Here are five tips for using contractions in business writing and other semi-formal material. If you’re unsure if contractions are appropriate for your content, please review “Are Contractions Okay in Business Writing?” before utilizing these tips. 1. Aim for natural-sounding contraction usage rather than consistency. Unlike most writing usage issues, contractions don’t have … [Read more...] about Five Tips for Using Contractions in Business Writing
Contractions are unavoidable. They appear in everything from songs and articles to product packaging. (Even the tiger on my box of breakfast flakes is telling me that “They’re great!”) But are contractions okay in business writing? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s frustrating, I know! Here are three questions to ponder as you decide if you should use contractions in your own … [Read more...] about Are Contractions Okay in Business Writing?
“What Is a Style Guide” defined style guides and explained their purpose. Today’s post offers suggestions to help you decide when you should—and shouldn’t—create a custom style instead of following your primary style guide when dealing with an atypical writing issue. In this case, an atypical issue can be anything from the capitalization of product descriptions to the … [Read more...] about When Should You Use a Custom Writing Style Instead of a Style Guide?
At the end of my last post, “Block Quotations, Part 3—Block Quotation Issues and Concerns,” I mentioned that my next post would outline valid reasons to (gasp!) ignore your style guide. However, I have decided to put that topic on hold until next week in order to offer a brief primer on the definition and purpose of style guides. What Is a Style Guide? Writing style guides … [Read more...] about What Is a Style Guide?
My last post outlined a basic format for how to write a business email. Today’s post highlights three things to include and three things to exclude when writing formal business emails. Although these issues may not apply to your informal business emails if you work in a casual environment, they are still important things to consider when communicating with individuals outside … [Read more...] about Three Things to Include and Three Things to Exclude in Formal Business Emails
Business communication has been around for as long as humans have been selling goods and services to each other. And over those millennia, we have developed clearly defined templates for writing a variety of business letters, but we have yet to establish an “official” template for how to write a business email. (Granted, email only became widely available to the general public … [Read more...] about How to Write a Business Email
If the word footnote ignites memories of coffee-fueled all-night writing sessions in cramped dorm rooms, never fear, we're not going to talk about college term papers today. Instead, we're going to explore the following three questions from the perspectives of formal (nonacademic) documents and business writing: What are footnotes? Where should footnotes appear in formal … [Read more...] about What Are Footnotes and How to Use Them
Nearly every business wants to promote its products with bold, exciting copywriting. And that’s a good thing! However, that exuberance sometimes leads to inconsistent or unnecessary capitalization of general product nouns. (“Our new Sandwich is the best!”) Here are four tips to help you decide when to capitalize product names in your own copywriting. (Please note that these … [Read more...] about When to Capitalize Product Names
Everyone handles money differently: Some people budget it down to the last cent. Some people spend it as if they’ve never seen a rainy day. And, some people bury it in the backyard. Just as everyone handles money differently, you can format money differently depending on the amount and the nature of your text. Here are some basic guidelines for writing about money in general … [Read more...] about How to Format Money in General Writing
As a business and nonfiction copy editor, I provide unvarnished (but still polite) writing advice for my clients. But another part of my job is less direct: I talk with people about their relationship with writing so that I can customize my approach to their professional or personal needs. Unsurprisingly, many people have negative feelings about writing because they have … [Read more...] about Six Tips for Handling Unwanted Writing Advice
When you think of interviews, you may reminisce about Barbara Walters making celebrities cry. Or, maybe you flash back to David Frost’s 1977 interview series with Richard Nixon. But interviews don’t have to be limited to televised entertainment or political journalism. In fact, the print interview format can be an effective marketing tool because it allows you to showcase your … [Read more...] about Eight Tips for Conducting Successful Marketing Interviews
Show Me the Plural or Singular Verbs with Money! Some people really like to talk about money. Other people put money in the do-not-discuss category alongside root canals, Brussels sprouts, and giant spiders. But even those who don't enjoy talking about money occasionally have to write about it. Here is a brief primer on when to use plural or singular verbs with money. 1. Use … [Read more...] about Should We Use Plural or Singular Verbs with Money?
Imagine this scenario: While reading a how-to article on plumbing, you come across the term PEX pipe. You have no clue what PEX pipe is or what it does. Your trusty office dictionary doesn’t include plumbing terminology, so you turn to Google and find out that PEX pipe is a flexible polyethylene-based tubing. As I mentioned last year, Google has become our default … [Read more...] about Boost Your Website Traffic with a Glossary Page
Last week's post introduced content localization, which is the process of tailoring content for specific areas. Today's post extends that topic with several content localization tips for business writing. Sometimes content localization requires complete translation, and sometimes it adapts the existing language for cultural or geographic differences. If your business has … [Read more...] about Content Localization Tips
Content localization is the process of adapting content for geographic or cultural differences. Content localization is an important part of localization (often referred to as L10N), which is the process of adapting a product or service for a specific area. Thanks to the Internet, content localization is no longer the domain of mega corporations bent on world domination. … [Read more...] about What Is Content Localization?
You may have noticed that Email and Letter Closings, Part 1 didn't include thank you, thanks, or have a nice day. That omission may seem strange because all three are popular correspondence endings—they're just not traditional complimentary closings.* So, today we're going to take a look at how to use elliptical clauses and sentences as letter closings and email … [Read more...] about Email and Letter Closings, Part 2
In December, we discussed salutations at the beginning of business emails and letters. Today, we'll cover email and letter closings, such as sincerely and best regards. Although these words and phrases are technically called valedictions or complimentary closings, they are frequently just referred to as closings. Regardless of what you call them, closings are almost always … [Read more...] about Email and Letter Closings, Part 1
Have you ever wondered if you should write "Dear Joe," or "Dear Joe:" at the start of an email or letter? The difference between the comma and the colon might seem insignificant, but it actually reflects the level of formality in your message. Today’s post explains how to punctuate salutations in emails and letters so you can begin all your correspondence with the desired level … [Read more...] about How to Punctuate Salutations in Emails and Letters
In September, we explored different types of editors and editing services. Today, we'll take a look at different types of writers. Just like editors, writers can serve in multiple roles for different projects, so the descriptions provided below may overlap in certain situations. In addition, we'll only focus on writers performing business or organization functions rather than … [Read more...] about Different Types of Writers
Throughout this how-to series, we've explored various editing services and ways to find editors online and through professional organizations. We've also discussed the finer points of interviewing and hiring editors. Let's wrap things up with five tips for working with your editor so that you can make the most of your editing experience: 1. Document everything. As mentioned … [Read more...] about How to Hire an Editor, Part 3: Tips for Working with Your Editor
Over the past several weeks, we've discussed different types of services provided by freelance editors and how to find editors through Internet searches and professional organizations. Today, we'll cover the final phases of the hiring process: interviewing an editor, discussing payment, and establishing a schedule. Interviewing an Editor Once you've narrowed down your search … [Read more...] about How to Hire an Editor, Part 2: Interviews, Payments, and Schedules
Last week we talked about the different types of editing services provided by freelance editors: developmental editing, substantive editing, copyediting, and proofreading. Today we'll get down to the nitty-gritty of how to hire an editor or editors for your project. Deciding What You Need Will Help You Figure Out Whom You Need In a perfect world, every writer would hire a … [Read more...] about How to Hire an Editor, Part 1: Where to Find an Editor
Lately I've noticed a questionable trend in articles and blog posts: authors describing our daily challenges as First World problems. The intention behind this description is to acknowledge that so-called Second- and Third World countries are dealing with different problems than those found in highly industrialized nations. Many countries certainly do face struggles that … [Read more...] about Avoid the Trendy Term “First World Problems”
Last week's post discussed the benefits of style guides for business writing. Today, I'll look at the individual topics you may want to include in your own guide. But first, I'd like to share a quick disclaimer: Your guide should be an expression of your business goals, strategies, and yes, style. Therefore, it should be customized to your needs. There's no reason to bloat your … [Read more...] about In-House Style Guides for Small Businesses, Part 2— Selecting Topics
As a freelance copy editor and writer, I frequently talk with business owners who are overwhelmed and frustrated by the time-intensive process of creating new content, including marketing material, web copy, and blog posts. If your business is feeling a similar pinch, consider creating an in-house style guide that answers your most common grammar, format, and style … [Read more...] about In-House Style Guides for Small Businesses, Part 1— Benefits and Preparation