Business Writing Tip #192—Using Hypertext Links Effectively

visit our websiteHyperlinks, or hypertext links, are elements of electronic documents, such as emails and webpages, that take your reader to another place, either in the same document or in another document. Your reader will click on the link and be taken to the target location.

Unfortunately, some authors use ugly constructions when they are hyperlinking. In this tip we’ll look at effective hyperlink practice. Please note that the underlined links are only to show how they would be if they were linked. The links in this tip aren’t active.

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Happy writing.

Business Writing Tip #191—Non-Sexist Language

This is a subject I touched on a long time ago, but I thought it was worth including a reminder. It is not just about being politically correct. In many countries the law says that you have to use non-sexist language. But non-sexist language can create some problems.restroom-304987_1280

The Rules

  1. Avoid using gender-specific nouns. Find an appropriate gender-neutral noun to replace them with.
Avoid:Use:
mankindpeople
businessmenbusiness executives, business people
mailmenpostal workers, letter carriers
workmenworkers, employees
policemenpolice officers, police
salesmensales force, sales people, sales representatives
man-hoursworking hours
stewardessflight attendant
chairmanchairperson
man (used generically)one, person
  1. If you need to avoid using a singular pronoun (e.g. he or she, his or her), switch your sentence to the plural. Often people write ungrammatical sentences to avoid the he or she/his or her problem.

Incorrect version

The following sentence is ungrammatical because it uses a plural pronoun (their) to refer to a singular subject (each team member). Some people suggest that this is okay. Others disagree. I think it’s best to avoid this type of construction.

  • Each team member is responsible for finalising their section of the report and submitting it before Friday.

Correct, but clumsy (especially if you have to do it a lot in one piece of writing):

  • Each team member is responsible for finalising his or her section of the report and submitting it before Friday.

Best version

  • All team members are responsible for finalising their sections of the report and submitting them before Friday.
  1. Sometimes you can remove the need for a pronoun completely. But make sure that the original meaning of your sentence is clear.
  • To become truly successful a manager must make sure he meets team members regularly.
  • To become truly successful, a manager must make a habit of meeting team members regularly.
  1. If you cannot find a way to rewrite the sentence, use ‘he or she’ or he/she. Do not use s/he. ‘He/she’ is less formal than ‘he or she’ so avoid using it in formal documents.

So there you have it. Some simple ways to make sure your documents are non-sexist. Add ‘remove sexist language’ to your editing/proofing checklist to avoid forgetting to check.

Happy writing.

Business Writing Tip #190—Use Positive Language

 

Your choice of words will influence how your reader feels about you, and the organisation you are representing in your business writing.

Compare:new STOP

You have left me with no option but to reject your proposal because you can’t conduct the training personally.

AND

I will be happy to accept your proposal if you agree to conduct the training personally.

Which one would you prefer to receive?

Some words and phrases in English can trigger negative reactions. They don’t always. It depends on who is reading them, and how they are feeling at the time. Sometimes it’s best just to avoid using them to avoid a negative response to your words. English is a rich language and there’s sure to be a way to say something positively.

Here’s a list of words and phrases to use carefully, or not at all.

  • Absolutely
  • Disaster
  • Not
  • Unacceptable
  • Failed
  • Obviously
  • With prejudice
  • Can’t
  • Horrified
  • Never
  • Without exception
  • Completely
  • Immediately
  • Demand
  • Neglected
  • Shocked

 

Business Writing Tip #189—Simply the best

DSCN0258In the last tip I talked about comparisons. In this tip we’ll look at superlatives. This is the form of adjective we use to indicate the greatest degree of the quality described by the adjective.

So if a building is taller than all the other buildings in the world, it is the tallest.

In this sentence the word tallest is the superlative form of the adjective tall, and taller is the comparative form.

With comparatives there can be degrees of comparison. Something might be a lot smaller, or a little bit smaller, or substantially smaller.

We cannot do this with superlatives because, by definition, they express the greatest degree of the quality.

And just like the comparative, we form the superlative in two ways depending on the original word.

The -est form

-est is added to one syllable adjectives and to two syllable adjectives ending in –y. If the adjective ends in –e, we just add -st.

large       largest

small      smallest

happy      happiest

tiny          tiniest

Sometimes we have to double the final consonant of a word.

  • When a one-syllable adjective ends in consonant + vowel + consonant, we double the final letter of the adjective.

Red                 reddest

Big                   biggest

Thin                thinnest

  • If the adjective ends in –y or –w, we don’t double the final letter

Grey                greyest

Slow                slowest

  • When the adjective ends in vowel + vowel + consonant, or in vowel + consonant + consonant, we don’t double the final letter.

Cheap             cheapest

Old                  oldest

The most form

When an adjective has more than two syllables we don’t add –est. Instead we use the word most before the adjective.

Spelling is one of the most difficult aspects of English for non-native speakers.

The most complicated solution is not usually the best.

A bit more about comparisons

We have two other structures we can use to form comparisons in English. These are:

  • As … as (also used in the negative not as … as)
  • Than

Here’s an example:

Company A made $10 million profit. Company B made $8 million and Company C made $5 million. Company Z made $10 million.

  • Company C is successful.
  • Company B is more successful than Company C.
  • But it is not as successful as Company A.
  • Company Z is as successful as Company A.

We can also use twice as…as, or three times as..as.

  • Company A made twice as much profit as Company C.

And if two things are the same:

  • Company A made the same amount of profit as Company Z.

Happy writing.

 

Business Writing Tip #188—Making Comparisons

whale 1Yesterday I went whale watching at Merimbula on the south coast of New South Wales. The humpback whale is not the largest whale species – that honour goes to the blue whale. But the whales we saw were large. They were much larger than the dolphins we saw.

The whales made me think of comparatives and superlatives, and how sometimes I see mistakes with these, so I decided to write a couple of blog posts about them. First up, we’ll look at comparisons.

Comparisons

There are two basic comparative forms in English. One is formed with –er and one uses more.

The -er form

-er is added to one syllable adjectives and to two syllable adjectives ending in –y. If the adjective ends in –e, we just add -r. Sometimes we have to double the final consonant of a word.

 

large      larger

small     smaller

happy    happier

tiny        tinier

Sometimes we have to double the final consonant of a word.

  • When a one-syllable adjective ends in consonant + vowel + consonant, we double the final letter of the adjective

red                 redder

big                  bigger

thin                thinner

  • If the adjective ends in –y or –w, we don’t double the final letter

grey                greyer

slow                slower

  • When the adjective ends in vowel + vowel + consonant, or in vowel + consonant + consonant, we don’t double the final letter.

cheap             cheaper

old                  older

The more form

When an adjective has more than two syllables we don’t add –er. Instead we use the word more before the adjective.

Spelling adjectives is more difficult than walking.

The solution to the problem was more complicated than we expected it to be.

Modifying comparisons

We can talk about different degrees of comparison, using adverbs.

The new photocopier is substantially larger than the old one.

The office is slightly smaller than we expected.

The cost blow-out was significantly higher than we thought it would be.

In my next post we’ll look at superlatives, similarity and quantitative comparisons.

Happy writing.

 

Business Writing Tip #187—Writing Press Releases

Most large organisations have people in their marketing or PR departments to write press releases but, if you work for a smaller company, you might be asked to write one. An effective press release answers the questions:Canb_Times_24Dec1968_sm

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?

First paragraph: This is the most important paragraph of your press release. This may be all that many reporters may read so it needs to include every important point that you wish to make. This is where you put your message.

Subsequent paragraphs: These are used to provide supporting and background information. They may only be scanned by reporters, or they may not be read at all. But they still need to be there because if your story is important enough, or topical enough, someone will want to publish it. Often press organisations need to cut articles and they start cutting at the end, so you want your most important information at the top.

General Tips

  • Write a strong, eye-catching headline (but make sure it’s about the story)
  • Make sure the story is newsworthy. Think about what is important.

Which of these sentences is newsworthy?

The Career Development Organisation signed a memorandum of understanding with XYZ Bank.

Or

XYZ Bank and the Career Development Organisation cooperate to provide employment for 500 new graduates.

(Sadly, that example was based on a real organisation that used to issue a seemingly endless stream of ‘signed a memorandum’ press releases. The PR department was surprised it wasn’t getting good press coverage.)

  • Use hard numbers where possible to support the story.
  • Include quotes whenever possible. They add colour to your text, and add insight. Make sure they sound like a real person and aren’t full of jargon.
  • Put background information about your company in a note at the end of the press release, not in the body of the release.
  • Keep the press release fairly short and be concise. One page is good. Never write more than two pages. The Guardian recommends 3 to 4 short paragraphs and a couple of quotes.
  • Proof read it and make sure that your grammar and spelling are perfect. Ask someone else to read it for you.
  • Include contact information – either yours or the person who you want the media to contact for further information.
  • Provide links to more information. Make it easy for an interested journalist to find further details if they want to.

Always remember the ABCs of good writing – accuracy, brevity and clarity. Keep them in mind whenever you’re writing a press release.

Happy writing.

book cover 2 (331x531)

Business Writing Tip #186—Evaluating your Minute Taking and Some Quick Tips

Are you a good note-taker or do you think you could improve? Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you evaluate your note-taking.

Do I use complete sentences?

  • If you are using complete sentences, STOP! You’re writing a lot of words you don’t need and these take time away from focusing on the important points.

Are my notes clear or confusing?

  • If your notes are confusing, think about the structure – structure your notes around the agenda and prepare carefully for the meeting by reading any materials so that you understand the topic well.

Do I capture the main points and all sub-points?book cover 2 (331x531)

Do I use abbreviations and shortcuts?

  • If you’re not using abbreviations and shortcuts, and you’re not capturing all the main points, consider how you can improve. Practice taking notes. You can take notes about a news broadcast or current affairs show. Or in the office, you might be attending a meeting where someone else is taking the minutes; this gives you an opportunity to practice. The more you practice, the easier it will become.

Tips for note-taking

  • Concentrate on the meeting.
  • Take notes consistently throughout the meeting.
  • Take notes selectively. Avoid writing down every word. An average speaker speaks at the rate of about 125-140 words per minute, and an average note-taker writes at about 25 words per minute.
  • Organize notes into some sort of logical form using the meeting agenda for the structure.
  • Be brief. Only write down the major points, decisions, action items and important information. If you’re not sure if something is important, check with the meeting chairperson.
  • Write legibly. If you can’t read your notes later, they are useless.
  • Don’t worry about correct spelling and grammar when you’re taking notes.

Hope this information helps.

Happy writing.

Business Writing Tip #185—Dropping ‘Who’ and ‘That’

Sometimes we can drop ‘who’ and ‘that’ from our sentences. Most native speakers know when to do this, but if you ask them for a rule, they’ll struggle to give you one.

Now many ‘rules’ in English can be safely ignored. Think about ‘never split an infinitive’. If everyone obeyed the rule we wouldn’t have The Enterprise’s mission in Star Trek: ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before.’

But when it comes to dropping ‘who’ and ‘that’ we need to obey the rules.

First we need to know what they are. For this I turned to Raymond Murphy’s English Grammar in Use. Murphy explains:English grammar in use

When ‘who’ or ‘that’ is the subject, you have to keep it; when it’s the object you can discard it.

So here’s an example.

The consultant who I met yesterday is working on a review of our costs.

In this sentence I met the consultant. ‘I’ am the subject. ‘The consultant’ is the object.

Because ‘the consultant’ is the object, I can drop the word ‘who’ without any problems. Then the sentence becomes:

The consultant I met yesterday is working on a review of our costs.

But here’s an example where you can’t drop it.

The consultant who is reviewing our costs will be using the office next to yours.

The consultant is the subject. It is the consultant who is reviewing our costs. One way to make this clear is to remove the relative clause (who is reviewing our costs). Then you have ‘The consultant will be using the office next to yours.’

We cannot say:

The consultant is reviewing our costs will be using the office next to yours.

‘Who’ has to stay because ‘the consultant who is reviewing our costs’ is the subject.

Another example, this time with ‘that’:

Where is the report that you said you’d have finished today? (You said you would finish the report.)

‘The report’ is the object so you can say, ‘Where is the report you said you’d have finished today?’

Now with ‘the report’ as the subject:

The report that highlights cost savings is on your desk.

Not

The report highlights cost savings is on your desk.

Happy writing.