Business Writing Tip #202—Take Care When Using Acronyms

An acronym is a word formed from the initial letters of a phrase, or a name. Think ASAP (as soon as possible), UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund), and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Some we use every day, and others are less common.

When you are writing for business, remember that you want to make it easy for your reader to understand your message.acronym-wordcloud

Even though you might be familiar with an acronym and use it regularly, your reader may have to stop and think about it, or even look it up. This is especially true in a global business environment where non-native English speakers may not have encountered specific acronyms before.

Acronyms can be useful. They provide a shorthand to terms we use regularly, and many are embedded in the jargon of a particular field of study or organisation.

Just remember to use them with care, especially in business writing.

Here are some tips:

  • The first time you use a particular acronym, provide the term in full before the acronym. For example, close of business (COB), business-to-business (B2B)
  • Avoid starting a sentence with an acronym
  • Omit the word ‘the’ when the acronym is pronounced as a word (UNICEF, not the UNICEF)

Acronyms can be a convenient shortcut in informal business correspondence (emails and texts), once you are certain the person you are corresponding with knows the acronyms you are using. You may find yourself writing emails full of CRM, CTA, CPC, IMO, and the like. Just always remember, you want your reader to be able to understand your communication quickly, without spending time looking up acronyms on line.

Happy writing.

Business Writing Tip #200—Action Verbs to Use in Job Applications (3)

Business Writing Tip #200—Action Verbs to Use in Job Applications (3)

My final post in this series of action verbs to use in job applications follows on from the  last two posts. In past posts I covered communication, management, finance, research, training, and technical skills. In this post we’ll look at words you can use to describe creative, helping and administrative skills.Dreamjob sign

Creative Skills

  • conceptualise
  • create
  • design
  • develop
  • found
  • illustrate
  • shape
  • revitalise
  • introduce
  • plan
  • integrate
  • fashion
  • institute
  • perform
  • originate
  • innovate
  • direct
  • establish

Helping Skills

  • assist
  • assess
  • diagnose
  • clarify
  • refer
  • rehabilitate
  • expedite
  • coach
  • facilitate
  • counsel
  • diagnose
  • guide
  • educate

Administrative Skills

  • approve
  • dispatch
  • operate
  • retrieve
  • arrange
  • execute
  • screen
  • catalogue
  • prepare
  • generate
  • implement
  • classify
  • collect
  • inspect
  • process
  • tabulate
  • purchase
  • inspect
  • monitor
  • record
  • validate
  • specify
  • generate


Business Writing Tip #199—Action Verbs to Use in Job Applications (2)

As promised in my last post, here are some more useful action verbs for job applications. In this post I’m covering research, training and technical skills.job app image

Research Skills

  • clarify
  • critique
  • diagnose
  • extract
  • identify
  • inspect
  • interpret
  • review
  • summarise
  • survey

Training Skills

  • adapt
  • advise
  • clarify
  • coach
  • communicate
  • coordinate
  • develop
  • enable
  • encourage
  • evaluate
  • explain
  • facilitate
  • guide
  • inform
  • instruct
  • persuade

Technical skills

  • assemble
  • build
  • calculate
  • compute
  • design
  • devise
  • engineer
  • fabricate
  • maintain
  • operate
  • overhaul
  • program
  • repair
  • solve
  • train
  • upgrade

Business Writing Tip #198—Action Verbs to Use in Job Applications (Part 1)

Sometimes it can be tough to think of verbs to use in your CV, cover letter or in a statement addressing selection criteria for a job. To help you out, I’ve put together a list to help you describe some of the things you do at work. These words are also useful if you are writing position documentation (job descriptions, position profiles, duty statements, selection criteria and the like).CV image

In this post I’ve included verbs for communication, management and finance. I will cover some other categories in the next post.

Communication Skills

  • arbitrate
  • arrange
  • author
  • correspond
  • direct
  • draft
  • edit
  • influence
  • interpret
  • lecture
  • mediate
  • moderate
  • negotiate
  • persuade
  • publicise
  • reconcile
  • translate
  • write

Management Skills

  • administer
  • analyse
  • assign
  • chair
  • conduct
  • consolidate
  • contract
  • coordinate
  • delegate
  • develop
  • direct
  • evaluate
  • execute
  • improve
  • increase
  • organise
  • oversee
  • plan
  • prioritise
  • produce
  • recommend
  • review
  • schedule
  • strengthen
  • supervise

Financial Skills

  • administer
  • allocate
  • analyse
  • appraise
  • audit
  • balance
  • budget
  • calculate
  • compute
  • develop
  • forecast
  • manage
  • plan
  • project
  • research





Business Writing Tip #193 – Pivot Words

A good writer will give their reader signs to follow; markers to help the reader follow the path through the writing, connecting the ideas. Many of these words are prepositions and conjunctions.Signpost words

I have taken the following information, including the excellent explanations, from the Dartmouth College website.

1.     Additive wordsAlso
These say, "Here's more of the same coming up. It's just as important as what we have already said."Further
in addition
2.     Equivalent wordsas well as
They say, "It does what I have just said, but it does this too."at the same time
equally important
3.     Amplification wordsfor example (e.g.)
The author is saying, "I want to be sure that you understand my idea; so here's a specific instance."specifically
for instance
such as
4.     Alternative wordseither/or
These point out, "Sometimes there is a choice; other times there isn't."other than
5.     Repetitive wordsagain
They say, "I said it once, but I'm going to say it again in case you missed it the first time."in other words
to repeat
that is (i.e.)
6.     Contrast and change wordsBut
"So far I've given you only one side of the story; now let's take a look at the other side."on the contrary
on the other hand
instead of
rather than
even though
in spite of
7.     Cause and effect wordsaccordingly
"All this has happened; now I'll tell you why."since
for this reason
8.     Qualifying wordsIf
These say, "Here is what we can expect. These are the conditions we are working under."Although
9.     Concession wordsAccepting the data
They say, "Okay! We agree on this much."Granted that
Of course
10. Emphasising words Above all
They say, "Wake up and take notice!"More important
11. Order Words Finally
The author is saying, "You keep your mind on reading: I'll keep the numbers straight."Second
12. Time words Afterwards
"Let's keep the record straight on who said what and especially when."Meanwhile
13. Summarising wordsfor these reasons
These say, "We've said many things so far. Let's stop here and pull them together."in brief
in conclusion
to sum up

Business Writing Tip #191—Non-Sexist Language

This is a subject I touched on a long time ago, but I thought it was worth including a reminder. It is not just about being politically correct. In many countries the law says that you have to use non-sexist language. But non-sexist language can create some problems.restroom-304987_1280

The Rules

  1. Avoid using gender-specific nouns. Find an appropriate gender-neutral noun to replace them with.
businessmenbusiness executives, business people
mailmenpostal workers, letter carriers
workmenworkers, employees
policemenpolice officers, police
salesmensales force, sales people, sales representatives
man-hoursworking hours
stewardessflight attendant
man (used generically)one, person
  1. If you need to avoid using a singular pronoun (e.g. he or she, his or her), switch your sentence to the plural. Often people write ungrammatical sentences to avoid the he or she/his or her problem.

Incorrect version

The following sentence is ungrammatical because it uses a plural pronoun (their) to refer to a singular subject (each team member). Some people suggest that this is okay. Others disagree. I think it’s best to avoid this type of construction.

  • Each team member is responsible for finalising their section of the report and submitting it before Friday.

Correct, but clumsy (especially if you have to do it a lot in one piece of writing):

  • Each team member is responsible for finalising his or her section of the report and submitting it before Friday.

Best version

  • All team members are responsible for finalising their sections of the report and submitting them before Friday.
  1. Sometimes you can remove the need for a pronoun completely. But make sure that the original meaning of your sentence is clear.
  • To become truly successful a manager must make sure he meets team members regularly.
  • To become truly successful, a manager must make a habit of meeting team members regularly.
  1. If you cannot find a way to rewrite the sentence, use ‘he or she’ or he/she. Do not use s/he. ‘He/she’ is less formal than ‘he or she’ so avoid using it in formal documents.

So there you have it. Some simple ways to make sure your documents are non-sexist. Add ‘remove sexist language’ to your editing/proofing checklist to avoid forgetting to check.

Happy writing.

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.


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 #184—Decluttering Tips

The world seems full of tips about decluttering. There are books, websites and TV shows devoted to giving us advice on how to declutter our homes, our desks, our bookshelves, even our lives. They all suggest we will be much happier once we have got rid of the clutter.keep-calm-and-declutter-17

Decluttering is something we can usefully apply to our business writing too, and it will make our readers much happier.

Many of the long words we use in business are no better than their shorter alternatives. Here’s a list of examples, taken from William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well, to help you declutter.

Long word/phraseShorter equivalent
referred to ascalled
With the possible exception ofExcept
Due to the fact thatBecause
He totally lacked the ability toHe couldn’t
Until such time asUntil
For the purpose ofFor

Other phrases to watch out for are:

  • It should be pointed out …
  • I might add …
  • It is interesting to note …

Think about the meaning of your sentence with and without such phrases and words, and see if the meaning remains clear once you’ve deleted the clutter.

By cutting out the clutter, and paring your work back to the basics, you will be able to see your essential message clearly.

‘But what about style?’ I hear you ask.

Style is important, particularly in sales and marketing copy where you want to engage your readers in a specific way.

Once you’ve decluttered, once you’ve defined the essential message, then you can start to add words. But you will be adding them deliberately, thoughtfully, not just tossing them into the mix from your subconscious.

So when you’re writing:

  • First give your subconscious free rein and get the words on the page, or the screen.
  • Then strip it back. Be ruthless with it until your words convey the essential message.
  • Then, thinking of your audience and your purpose, dress the text up with words that you have thought about, that you have considered carefully, that help achieve the purpose of the piece, and that will appeal to your readers.

Happy writing.


Business Writing Tip #181—Build Relationships

Often we write emails in a hurry, and we automatically use ‘stock’ phrases. Think about ‘Further to our phone conversation’ or ‘I received your email’.

These phrases communicate by providing a reference to let your reader know why you are writing. But they don’t sound much like a person wrote them, do they?

You are not a machine, and neither is your reader. So think about bringing some humanity, and some personality, to your emails. It will help strengthen your relationship with the reader.IMG_0282

Here are some suggestions:

  • It was great to speak to you…
  • I was so pleased to meet you today…
  • I enjoyed meeting you earlier today…
  • I thought our chat this morning was really useful …

Use your email openings to build the relationship and to let the other person know it will be a pleasure to communicate with you. It’s the equivalent of a smile and a greeting in the office corridors.

Happy writing.