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.

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