Business Writing Tip #164—Hopefully

At school I was taught, “Adverbs modify verbs”. Is this something that you were taught as well? Do you know that adverbs do not necessarily modify only verbs? They can also modify whole clauses or sentences.

Hopefully is a word that has two meanings—depending on how it’s used, whether it’s modifying a verb, or a phrase.

The original meaning was ‘in a hopeful manner’, or ‘full of hope’.hopefully_1.png.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge

So, I can write:

  • I waited hopefully to get a new job.

Some time later (according to Grammar Girl, about 300 years ago) ‘hopefully’ took on a new meaning, that of ‘it is to be hoped’ or ‘I hope’.

  • Hopefully the price will remain the same until we get approval to buy the new photocopier.

In the first example, the word ‘hopefully’ is modifying the verb ‘waited’. It is telling you how I waited.

The second example, however, uses the word ‘hopefully’ to modify the phrase ‘the price will remain the same’. I am hoping that the price will remain the same.

If you want to avoid misunderstandings, and the anger of some grammar sticklers, you can replace “hopefully” when it’s modifying a phrase or sentence with “I hope that” or “I am hoping that”.

Another adverb which works in a similar way is ‘normally’.

  • He spoke normally, even though he knew that the audience couldn’t hear him because of the jackhammer working outside of the room.

In this example he spoke in a normal voice. He didn’t adjust his volume to take account of the extra noise.

  • We normally have our weekly meeting on Friday mornings.

It is normal for us to have our weekly meeting on Fridays, not that we have our meeting in a normal manner.

I am hoping that this all makes sense to you. Happy writing.

Photo illustration by Gretchen McCulloch, image courtesy Wikimedia.

Business Writing Tips #163—Linking Words for Reports: Quick Reference

I’ve written about linking words in tips before but I thought it was worth revisiting a few of the most useful ones. No matter what kind of report you are writing, you need to tie your ideas together.

The phrases you need to:chain and leaves

Introduce a new topic

Regarding, with reference to, in relation to

Add a related point

Moreover, furthermore, in addition

Show a consequence

So, therefore, as a result, for this reason

Give an example

E.g., such as, for example, for instance, in particular, especially, above all

Explain by rephrasing

In other words, i.e.

State the real situation

In fact, actually, as a matter of fact


Firstly, secondly, thirdly, finally

First, second, third

The first stage/step is . . ., then . . . , and after that . . .

Make a general point

In general, on the whole, in most cases

Add an unexpected, or surprising, idea

However, even so, nevertheless

Make a contrast

In contrast, on the other hand, whereas, while

State known information

Of course, obviously, clearly


In conclusion, on balance, overall, taking everything into consideration


You can use most of the examples in the above list at the beginning of a sentence. Sometimes they are followed by a comma. Read your sentences aloud and think about where you would pause.

  • In general there are three major points to consider.
  • However, there are also some minor points which we should not ignore.

Many of them can be used in the middle of a sentence after the word ‘and’:

. . ., and in fact . . .

. . . , and on balance . . .

A few of these phrases are used immediately after a comma. These include: especially, such as, and whereas.

  • There is the issue of staffing, especially given that whatever we decide there will be an impact on jobs.
  • We currently have a team of five, whereas if we introduce the xyz equipment we will only need a team of three to run it.

Happy writing.


Free Book

Returning home to Australia is great, but I need to brush up on my networking skills. I re-read my ebook, The Busy Person’s Guide to Networking, and decided to share it with you. So, for three days only – from 21 to 23 March (US Time) – you will be able to download the book free from Amazon. I hope you enjoy it.

Happy networking.

networking ebook cover

A grammar gift idea …


A Grammar Gift Idea

I rarely highlight commercial products on my blog but I couldn’t resist. I recently saw these fabulous Grammar Grumbles mugs advertised on the web.

When you’re not sure which word to use, if you mix up your ‘less’ and ‘fewer’, your ‘affects’ and ‘effects’, this set of six mugs will help. Or if you have one of those friends, or colleagues, who literally dies laughing … do them a favour and buy them a useful reminder of the correct words to use. The messages on the mugs are:grammar mugs

  • They’re there for their afternoon tea.
  • I am figuratively dying for a cuppa.
  • The caffeine effect can affect us all.
  • Don’t lose the loose-leaf tea.
  • I’m going to add two sugars too.
  • Less milk and fewer sugar lumps.

And as the website states, “Even if you don’t take grammar as seriously as I do, I still think these mugs are great reminders of the rules.”

Happy writing.

P.S. Please note, this is not a paid ad – I just love the mugs 🙂

Business Writing Tip #162—Phrasal Verbs (Part 3)

Again, as promised in my last post, here are some more useful phrasal verbs. This is the third, and final, post in this series.

Phrasal Verb Definition Example
To hand (something) out To distribute I’ll handout a copy of the presentation during the meeting.
To hang on To wait a short time Hang on a second. I’ll be right there.
To keep (something) up To continue We need to keep up our efforts to boost the sales figures.
To let (someone) down To disappoint The suppliers let us down by not delivering the agreed quantities.
To look into To investigate A team has been set up to look into the declining sales figures.
To look out for To be careful and take notice Given our recent drop in sales, we need to look out for new opportunities in the market.
To pass (something) out To distribute ( see also to hand something out) I’ll pass out a copy of the presentation after the meeting.
To pass (something) up To decline (usually something positive) Don’t pass up on this great opportunity. The sale ends tomorrow.
To put (something) off To postpone The company has put off introducing the revised pricing structure until the next quarter.
To run into (someone/something) To meet someone/something unexpectedly I hope we don’t run into any problems with the project schedule.
To send (something) back To return The new equipment isn’t working correctly. We’ll have to send it back.
To set (something) up To organise, to arrange Please set up a conference call with the Polish office to discuss the quarterly sales figures.
To shop around To compare prices The company needs to shop around to make sure that it gets the best possible deal on the new printers.
To sort (something) out To resolve a problem This report isn’t clear. We need to get together and sort out exactly what we want it to say.
To take (something) back To return an item If the customer is not happy with the printer performance, we need to take it back and offer them an alternative.
To think (something) over To consider I’d like you to think over the various options and we’ll make a decision at tomorrow’s meeting.
To turn (something) down To reject, to refuse We presented the agreed position at the negotiations, but the other side turned them down.
To try (something) out To test We will be installing the new printers and trying them out over the next couple of days.
To use (something) up To finish the supply We’ve used up our annual training budget, so we need to be creative about how we fund training over the next two months.

That’s it for phrasal verbs for now. They are often used in emails between colleagues, or with customers with whom we have a strong relationship, to avoid being overly formal when we write.

Trying out life in Australia again after living abroad

Trying out life in Australia again after living abroad

Happy writing.



Business Writing Tip #161—Phrasal Verbs (Part 2)

When this sulphur-crested cockatoo arrived, the other birds gave in and flew away.

When this sulphur-crested cockatoo arrived, the other birds gave in and flew away.

In my last post I promised you some more useful phrasal verbs.

So let’s jump right in.

Phrasal Verb Definition Example
To call (something) off To cancel Management has called off today’s meeting because three people are off sick.
To end up To eventually reach, do or decide We’ll probably end up having the meeting the day after tomorrow.
To figure (something) out To understand, to find the answer We’ll figure out what to do when we get the final sales figures.
To find out To discover Can you try and find out why our sales fell last month?
To get (something) back To receive something that you had before We need to get our team back to full strength, so we have made the recruitment action a top priority.
To give in To reluctantly stop arguing The other side weren’t entirely happy with the negotiation, but when they realized the strength of our position, they had no choice but to give in.
To give up To stop trying The prototype isn’t working correctly, but I don’t want us to give up on it.
To go after To follow someone The CEO will speak first at the meeting. The Head of Marketing will go after her.
To go after To try to achieve something We need to go after increased sales this quarter if we are going to meet the annual targets.
To go over To review Could you please go over these sales figures and provide a summary for the meeting tomorrow?
To hand (something) in To submit We’ve asked the client to hand in their quarterly projections by tomorrow.

I’ll give you some more examples in my next post.

Happy writing.