Business Writing Tip #139—Report Writing—Some Useful Nouns

English is a rich language with many different ways to express the same thing. One of the main reasons we use different words at different times is because it makes our writing more interesting.

Here’s a not very interesting example:

  • Even though our sales figures increased, our costs increased too. Our headcount during the period increased, and we had an increase in payroll costs. We also had to pay a rent increase and the cost of electricity increased.

It’s rather dull to read, isn’t it?

  • Even though our sales figures increased, our costs went up too. During the period we employed some additional staff, which led to a rise in our payroll costs. The landlord also hiked up our rent and the electricity company revised their fees upwards.

Now, I’m not saying that this second version is perfect, but it’s definitely more interesting to read.

The problem is, we’re often busy at work and can’t find the time to look up alternative report template imagewords. In this post, and the next one, I’m going to give you some options so, when you are looking for a word to use, you can check the charts and quickly find an alternative.

These lists are not exhaustive. There are many more options. But they are a starting point, and might save you some time. In the next post we’ll look at some verbs.




Business Writing Tip #138—Make Your Writing Easy to Read

The debate about using Plain English continues. The latest episode started with an essay by English author Will Self, “A Point of View: Why Orwell was a literary mediocrity”.

Yet, the point is not about whether we should all write, or avoid, Plain English. It is about using the appropriate language for the situation. When relaxing, there’s nothing more enjoyable than plunging into a literary novel and discovering new, and often obscure, words. Words that allow the imagination to roam free and create its own version of the story.

But this blog is about Business English.easy to read

Business English needs to focus on clarity.

It needs to be to-the-point.

It needs to be understandable by all of the people who need to understand it. Many of these people are non-native speakers of English, often with a more restricted vocabulary that native speakers.

So against that background, I offer three short pieces of advice (there will probably be more to come in future posts):

  1. Your first draft will rarely be good enough. Make sure you reread it before you submit, or send, it. Three useful questions to ask yourself:
    1. Is the meaning clear?
    2. Will the recipient know what to do?
    3. Will they know when to do it by?
  2. Avoid long sentences. It’s easy to get lost in long sentences. It’s easy to lose track of the subject. And it’s easy for reader’s to lose interest. Cut long sentences into two.
  3. Watch out for ‘very’ and ‘really’. In most cases these words can be cut without any change to the meaning. I mean, it’s very obvious, isn’t it? It’s really difficult to remember. Surely you are making the same point with: It’s difficult to remember.

Happy writing.

Business Writing Tip #137—Seven Simple Situations that Call for Commas

Way back in tip #27 I talked about commas. I thought it was time for a quick review of when we use commas (download the infographic at the end of this post). For a fuller account of these delightful curls, take a look at Business Writing Tip #27.

  1. Use commas to separate items in a list

This year I travelled to Prague, Berlin and Kutna Hora.

  1. Use commas after the opening and closing greetings in a letter or email

Dear Marketa, . . .

Kind regards, . . .

  1. Use commas after ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at the beginning of a sentence

No thank you, I don’t want another tequila shot. Yes, I would like something to eat now.

  1. Use commas to separate the day and month from the year in dates

30 August, 2014

Saturday, 6 September

  1. Use commas after common introductory words in sentences

Well, I’m not sure this is the way to go.

However, it does seem as though we might get there eventually.

So, what do you think about this route?

  1. Use commas after a person’s name when you are addressing them directly

Dalice, could you please send me an email with a link to the article you mentioned?

Honza, please do your homework.

  1. Use commas when you are quoting, i.e. for direct speech

Honza asked, “When did I ever not complete my homework?’

I replied, “I know. You always do it.”

Happy writing.

7 Simple Situations that Call for Commas 2

Business Writing Tip #136—Who or Whom?


Before I start talking about who and whom, I want to talk about pronouns. Way back in Business Writing Tip #23 I wrote:

Pronouns seem to confuse people but they’re really not difficult. The form of the pronoun that you need to use depends on whether it is a subject or object in the sentence.

  1. If it’s a subject, it performs the action – Use I, he, she, they , we, who
  2. If it’s an object, it receives the action – Use me, him, her, them, us, whom

Subjects and Objects

Do you remember what subjects and objects are? The subject is the person or thing that is doing something.

I am writing this blog. ‘I’ is the subject. ‘I’ am the person who is performing the action of writing.

He ran as fast as he could, but still missed the train. ‘He’ is the subject. ‘He’ is the person who is performing the action of running.

Objects are the person or thing having something done to him/her/it.

I patted the dog. ‘The dog’ is the object. It is the thing that I, the subject, am patting.

He is writing the report. ‘The report’ is the object. It is the report that he, the subject, is performing the action of writing.

Who and Whom

Now when it comes to who and whom, who is the subject pronoun and whom is the object pronoun.

If you want to know the name of the person writing the report, you would ask, “Who is writing the report?” because you want to know the subject, the person who is performing the action.Who or whom

If you want to know the name of the person or people that were invited to the meeting, you would ask, “Whom did you invite to the meeting?” because you want to know the object. The subject is you – you invited the people to the meeting.

A Quick Trick

Now I’ll give you a quick way to work out which word to use.

Look at that example again:

You invited the people to the meeting. Maybe you invited Bob to the meeting. If I replace Bob with a pronoun I would say, “You invited him to the meeting.” Maybe you invited Christine to the meeting. I know it’s now the correct pronoun (it would be ‘her’ but, inconveniently, that doesn’t work as a memory trick because it doesn’t finish with the letter ‘m’). So just pretend Christine is a man. You invited HIM.

When the pronoun is ‘him’, the question is ‘whom’?  ‘Whom did you invite to the meeting?’ ‘I invited him.’

We also use ‘whom’ after prepositions. A couple of examples:

  • To whom was he speaking?
  • About whom were they talking?
  • For whom did you buy the ring?

When it comes to Bob going to the station to catch the train, if I want to replace Bob with a pronoun I would say, ‘He went to station to catch the train.’ In this case, the question would be ‘Who went to the station to catch the train?’ Bob is performing the action.

So, if you can’t remember that you use “whom” when you are referring to the object of the sentence, just remember that if you can replace the word with “him“, then you use “whom.”

It’s really not so difficult. Then again, English is changing and some people never use the word ‘whom’. Its use is more common in US English than in UK English. As always, if you’re writing a formal document, it’s best to try and use it correctly.

Happy writing.

Who or whom