Business Writing Tip #91—Much and Many

books 1 (480x640)The words “much” and “many” regularly cause problems for non-native English speakers. Once you know the rules, they’re quite easy to use correctly. In the next tip I’ll share a table with you which will also help.

But first …

The usage of “much” and “many” is related to two types of nouns:

  • Countable nouns (sometimes called count nouns)
  • Uncountable nouns (sometimes called mass nouns)

Countable Nouns

Most nouns name things that occur either by themselves, or in numbers. When there is more than one of them you need to use the plural form. With countable nouns we use “many”.

  • I like having a great many books at home so that I always have something to read.
  • There are many dogs in Prague.
  • Many people here like to catch the Metro because it is fast and regular.
  • How many chairs do we need to have in the room for the meeting?

Uncountable Nouns

These nouns refer to things that have mass, not number. You can’t use numbers with them. And they don’t have a plural form. With uncountable nouns we use “much”.

  • Much rice is grown in countries with tropical climates.
  • I don’t have much luck when it comes to lotteries (mainly because I don’t buy tickets!)
  • There’s often too much traffic on the roads so I prefer to use public transport.
  • She doesn’t have much money.

 

Business Writing Tip #90—When to Use Capital Letters

Sometimes people get confused about when to use capital letters in English. Here are some guidelines to help you.

Capitalise:

  • The first word of a sentence.scrabble

This is a blog post about when to use capital letters.

  • Proper nouns; that is the name of a particular place, person or thing

Canberra Times, Prague, Dalice Trost

  • A brand name but not the product

Firestone tyres, Levi jeans, Schweppes soft drinks

  • Holidays, special or famous events, historical periods or eras and famous documents.

Christmas Day, the Middle Ages, the Magna Carta

  • The first person subject pronoun ‘I’. You do this both when it’s by itself or in a contraction.

I went to work early today. I’m now quite tired.

  • Titles (and abbreviations of titles) when the come in front of personal names

Dr Elizabeth Jones, Ms Christine Ashton, Mr David Smith, Captain Corey James

  • The days of the week and the months of the year

Monday, Friday, January, August

  • Words that express family relationships when they are used in place of the person’s name.

Mother asked me to go and buy some bread. Nana said it had to be wholemeal.

Note: These words don’t take capitals when they follow possessive pronouns or definite and indefinite articles. So, my mother, his daughter, the sons and daughters of local families

  • The names of organisations such as businesses, schools, associations and clubs.

Australian National University, LiveTEFL Prague, Albert Supermarket

  • The specific name of buildings and other man-made structures, ships, trains, and planes

Parliament House, the Cutty Sark, the Sydney Opera House, Titanic

  • Capitalise geographic names and places (streets, cities, etc)

Sydney Harbour, Mt Everest, Northbourne Avenue, Prague

  • The names of countries, nationalities, races and languages, and the adjectives derived from them.

France, French, Australia, Indian, English countryside, British English

  • Religions and denominations

Christianity, Islam, Protestant, Buddhism

  • The names of sacred books

The Koran, the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita

  • Directions when they indicate a section of a country or the world, but not when they are indicating a direction

The Middle East, the Pacific Northwest

Business Writing Tip #89—Words to Use for Social Media Copywriting

These days much business writing is writing for the web. I spend quite a bit of time copywriting and am always looking for new hints and tips. Today I found a post on bufferapp.com’s blog which suggests that there are 27 words which are the ‘most retweetable and sharable’. social media

Blog Posts

The research they did revealed that the most popular blog posts had the following words in their titles:

Twitter

For Twitter the research showed that the following words/phrases were the most ‘retweetable’:

  • You
  • Twitter
  • Please
  • Retweet
  • Post
  • Blog
  • Social
  • Free
  • Media
  • Help
  • Please retweet
  • Great
  • Social media
  • 10
  • Follow
  • How to
  • Top
  • Blog post
  • Check out
  • New blog post

Good luck with your social media posting!

Business Writing Tip #88—When to Use the Passive

I know that in previous posts I’ve suggested that it is usually best to write in the active voice rather than the passive voice. But there are some exceptions. There are some times when the passive is most appropriate, so this post is about them.

In Advertising

The passive can be used to make sure the product is the focus of attention.

Our sportswear is tested by robots and worn by international sporting champions.

In Scientific Texts

But please note that the trend in scientific writing, thankfully, is to use the active voice. In Writing for the Sciences, an online course offered by Stanford University, the course instructor writes:

  1. The active voice is livelier and easier to read
  2. It is a myth that avoiding first-person pronouns lends objectivity to the paper.
    1. You (or your team) ran the experiments and interpreted the data. To imply otherwise is misleading.
    2. The experiments and analysis did not materialize out of thin air! (e.g., “the data were interpreted to show”).
  3. By agreeing to be an author on the paper, you are taking responsibility for its content. Thus, you should also claim responsibility for the assertions in the text by using “we” or “I.”

When the agent is unknown, is not important or is obvious from the context

The wheel was invented about 5000 years ago.french road

To avoid the overuse or repetition of personal pronouns or vague words such as “people”

The motorway is being repaired and should be avoided for the next two weeks.

A Great Post from K M Weiland on Finding the Right Word

Found this post on KM Weiland’s blog today and just had to share it. It includes some excellent tips. My favourite is “Read your draft aloud.” It’s so helpful when you want to identify that you’ve overused a word, or even accidentally missed one. Reading aloud slows us down and is a useful technique for making sure your brain is reading what is actually on the page or on your screen, not just what it thinks is there!

Business Writing Tip #87—Phrases to Express Causes, Consequences and Conditions

Continuing from previous posts which have looked at useful vocabulary to use in specific situations, here are some more useful words and phrases you can use in reports and business correspondence.

The first group are focused on when we are talking about something happening because of something else—expressing cause.cause and effect

Expressing cause

  • Because of…
  • Due to…
  • Given…
  • Owing to…
  • Because…
  • Since…
  • As…
  • This is due to (the fact that)…

Or you may want to say that something resulted from something that went before…

Expressing consequence

  • So
  • Therefore
  • Thus
  • Consequently
  • Hence
  • So that …
  • As a consequence
  • As a result
  • That is why …
  • That’s why …
  • This is the reason why
  • No wonder (then) that …

And finally, it may be that you need to talk about situations where, unless something happens, then something else won’t happen…or if something doesn’t happen, something else will.

Expressing a condition

  • Without …
  • Unless …
  • If … will not …

Business Writing Tip #86—Alternatives to “If”

ifWe often use the word “if” in English for conditionals. These are sentence where we express a condition.

  • If you turn the key, the engine will start.
  • If he brings back the book I lent him, I’ll lend it to you.
  • If the lifeguard hadn’t seen them, they would have drowned.

But there are some other words we can use to introduce conditionals, and by using other words we add variety and interest to our language.

So long as/as long as

  • So/As long as you are going to the conference, you may as well give a presentation.

Provided/providing that

  • You can drive the company care providing/provided that you are fully insured.

Suppose/supposing

  • Supposing the sales figures plummet, what then?

Assuming

  • The merger will go ahead, assuming the other company is still interested.

Even if

  • She can’t fly first class, even if she is the finance manager.

If only

  • If only we’d made the changes to the brand earlier, we might have been able to capture more market share.

On condition that

  • You can attend the conference on condition that you make sure you make contact with the principal speakers.

Unless

  • Unless our sales pick up, we are not going to be able to pay bonuses this year.

If and when

  • Annual bonuses will be reintroduced if and when sales improve.