Business Writing Tip #69—Describing Graphs and Charts

chart_apiOften when we write reports we need to include graphs and charts and we need to describe what is happening in them.

Here are some nouns and verbs that might help you add variety to your text.




For upward trends (i.e. when lines are going up on a graph)




Go up




Shoot up



Recover, stage a recovery


A rise

An increase


An upward trend

An increasing trend

A rising trend

An improvement

A jump

A surge

A recovery

An expansion

For downward trends





Go down




A fall

A decrease

A decline

A downward trend

A falling trend

A decreasing trend

A slump

A reduction

When things aren’t changing

Remain constant

Remain stable

Stay at the same level


Level out


When there is a frequent change



When the line hits its lowest level

Bottoms out

Reaches a low

Hits a low

Reaches its lowest point

Hits its lowest point

Lowest level

When the line hits its highest point


Reaches its highest point

Reaches a peak

Highest level


We can also use a range of adjectives and adverbs to describe how the movement is occurring.





























Now you can’t use all of these words all of the time, but with the help of this vocabulary you should be able to explain your graphs and charts in a clear and meaningful way, indicating the direction and speed/magnitude of the movement without just saying ‘went down’ and ‘went up’.

Business Writing Tip #68—Shall we dance?

Break_dance.svgWell, I’m not really going to answer this … This post is about when we should use the word ‘shall’ and when we should use ‘will’.

According to the Oxford A—Z of Grammar & Punctuation by John Seely, there are three rules.

  1. Use shall with I and we
  2. Use will with all other persons (i.e. 2nd and 3rd person, singular and plural)
  3. Reverse this for emphasis (‘The sea shall not have them.’)

Interestingly shall is most often used in questions, such as Shall we dance? In most cases now though people use will in conversation. Seely claims that will is used ‘fourteen more times more frequently than shall’. And it seems that shall is more common in British English than in American English.

When it comes to asking for advice there’s another difference between British and American English.

In British English shall is used to ask for advice.

  • Which way shall we go?

The American version of English prefers should.

  • Which way should we go?

Somehow though, I can’t quite get my head around Should we dance? And, of course, both of these are more commonly replaced in spoken English by that marvellously lazy contraction Wanna. (e.g. Wanna dance?)

Business Writing Tip #67—Easily Misused and Confused Words Part 1

A few people have contacted me about words that are frequently misused, so I thought it was worth putting together at least one post about some of these. (I’ve labelled it part one in anticipation of future parts which may, or may not, be forthcoming!)

In this post I’m going to look at errors I commonly see…


Principal is a noun which means a person with authority (e.g. the school principal, a principal of a consultancy firm). It can also be an adjective. When it’s an adjective it means main, chief, most important or leading. (E.g. My principal reason for turning down the job was because I didn’t want to move countries.)

Principle is a noun that means a “fundamental basis of a system of thought or belief”. (E.g. This is one of the basic principles of democracy.”


Stationary is an adjective that means that something is fixed or not moving. (E.g. There was an accident and the traffic was stationary for over twenty minutes.)

Stationery is a noun that means writing materials. (E.g. Please print the letters on the company stationery.)


Foreword is a noun that means an introductory note or preface. (E.g. The foreward includes information about my reasons for writing this book.)

Forward is an adjective or adverb that means “toward the front”. (E.g. I sat in the forward section of the plane.” It can also be a verb meaning to send something on (i.e. to forward an email, etc.)


Few is an adjective that we use with countable nouns and it means small in number. (E.g. There were a few books on the table.) Less is also an adjective but it means small in amount or degree (not number) and it’s used with uncountable nouns. (E.g. I have less money now than I had this time last year.)


Their is the 3rd person plural possessive pronoun. (E.g. Their house is at the end of the street.)

There means in, at or to that place or position. (E.g. The book is over there on my desk

They’re is the contraction of “they are” which is commonly used in speech and informal writing. (E.g. Did you catch up with the Smiths? They’re here for the summer.)

And just for fun, here’s a sentence using all three.

They’re going to visit Prague with their mother because she loves it there.



Finally got around to looking at my Twitter feed today and found a link to this blog post on the Harvard Business Review site. Thought you might be interested … you can either read the transcript or listen to the podcast.

In this post Bryan Garner refers to Politics and the English Language by George Orwell. This is definitely worth a read. You’ll find it easily using Google.


I love HBR and have now subscribed to their Ideacast podcast series!


Business Writing Tip #63—Principles of Business Writing

A brief apology for these tips being out of order. I drafted this one some time back and forgot to post it.

In his Concise Guide to Technical & Academic Writing, David Bowman lists a set of principles. These principles apply to good business writing as well, so I thought they were worth quoting here.Bowman book

  • The reader is more important than the writer.
  • The style must be consistent with the purpose.
  • Clear, simple writing increases understanding.
  • Logical organization shows how ideas connect.
  • The reader needs to know how to find information.
  • Information sources must be given credit.
  • Correct grammar, punctuation, and word choice enhance credibility.

Follow these principles and your writing is sure to improve.

Business Writing Tip #66—Me, Myself and I

A short gripe today. Sorry.

More and more people seem to be saying things like:

“Erica and myself wrote the report and submitted it last week.”

This is just plain WRONG! (Yep, I’m shouting.)

Others say:

“Erica and me wrote the report and submitted it last week.”

That’s WRONG too! (More shouting. Sorry.)

If you leave Erica out of the sentence, you would say:

“I wrote the report and submitted it last week.”

So here is my plea. If you and Erica wrote a report and you want to talk about it, avoid using the word “myself”.

The correct version is:

“Erica and I wrote the report and submitted it last week.”

Remember “I” is the first person, singular subject pronoun. “Me” is the first person singular object pronoun.

“Myself” is the first person, singular, reflexive pronoun. I haven’t written about these before but we use a reflexive pronoun as a direct object when the object is the same as the subject of the verb.

Here’s an example:rooflines at Prague Castle

I am teaching myself to write clear, concise reports.

And if you’re wondering about today’s photo, I’m teaching myself to use a nifty photo editing website called, which let me put together this collage of photos I took at Prague Castle earlier today.