Resources for business and technical writing
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Writing


As time permits, I like to write articles on writing. Some of these are inspired by recent discoveries on how to write better, some are expansions of topics I teach, and some are born out of frustration with poor writing I see. Regardless of the inspiration, I hope you will find an article or two that will help.

  • Spelling, hyphenating, and acronyms

    Canadian spelling is funny, sometimes we use -our at the end of words like the British do, and sometimes we end words with -izes like the Americans do. Spelling is another of our careless-or-clueless trio, and requires special attention in Canada. Historically of course, English came from Great Britain and the British Empire that at one ... Read more
  • Making subjects and verbs agree

    We all know about subjects and verbs, and we probably all know about “the rule for subjects and verbs.” The rule is simple, and most of us know it: Verbs must agree with their subjects. If the subject is singular, the verb must be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must be plural. We indicate a ... Read more
  • Keeping our pronouns in line

    Like it or not, there are some rules, or at least conventions, that we must adhere to when writing. And one of these concerns pronouns. Pronouns are words that stand in for nouns, and antecedents are the nouns they stand in for. We use pronouns all the time, and if we didn’t, our language would be ... Read more
  • Using the comma

    The comma we have today came from the virgule (/) used in the 13th to 17th centuries to indicate a pause in our reading. Since then, we have developed roughly nine specific uses of commas, and these usages can even influence the clarity and meaning of the sentence. Some of these include: Before coordinating conjunctions joining independent ... Read more
  • Is it among or between?

    Many believe that between is appropriate when there are two people or things involved, and among is appropriate when there are more than two people or things involved. While this might give you the right answer some of the time, it isn’t strickly correct and you could end up creating awkward feeling sentences like: Tensions among ... Read more
  • Writing Succinctly

    Writing succinctly, using as few words as necessary, is probably the biggest challenge facing most writers. Most of us use words and phrases in writing that we would never use when speaking. However once we’ve written the words, we feel like we are going in the wrong direction if we remove them. Yet, one big ... Read more
  • Making a list and checking it twice

    We all love lists, not just the jolly fellow in red, and most of us can’t get through a day without them. Not only do lists seem to bring order to chaos and help us remember things, but they are easy to spot among paragraphs of text. We notice them, read them, and then, if ... Read more
  • The semicolon, more that just a wink

    Use of the semicolon has increased recently by combining it with a hyphen followed by a closing parenthesis to indicate a wink (tip your head to the left), but otherwise it is often avoided because writers aren’t confident how to use it. The semicolon (;) is a delightful looking punctuation mark that provides a grammatical ... Read more
  • What to do about acronyms

    Acronyms, those 2, 3, 4, and sometimes 5 letter short forms, are everywhere. If we’re hungry we might get a BLT, or maybe some OJ and a PBJ sandwich, or maybe some KD. At home we might switch on ESPN and watch an NHL game or an NBA game or an NFL game or anMLB game or the PGA tournament. We worry about our kids having ADHD and we watch our BMI and restrict the amount of MSG we consume so ... Read more
  • Capitals in headings

    We often feel uncertain about how to capitalize words in headings. “Should everything be capitalized?” “Isn’t there a rule about not capitalizing articles and prepositions, and what is a preposition anyway?” There are some very hard and fast rules about how to capitalize English words in sentences. However, when it comes to capitalizing headings, there are ... Read more
  • Writing with numbers

    In many of our technical and business communications, numbers are key facts we need to express accurately and clearly. Here are some rules and some advice to remember when writing with numbers. a. Write out a number if it begins a sentence. Thirty-two people won an award for outstanding technical contributions. b. Hyphenate all compound numbers from twenty-one ... Read more
  • When to capitalize

    Capitalization is writing a word with its first letter as a majuscule (upper case letter) and the remaining letters in minuscule (lower case letters). The term is also used more broadly to refer to any aspect of using upper and lower case letters. The CP Stylebook offers this basic advise for capitalization. Capitalize all proper names, trade ... Read more
  • Choose your typeface with care

    When all we had for printed communication was the typewriter, we didn’t need to consider typeface or fonts, we had no choice. Now however, with Words Processors and Page Layout programs being so readily available we have some choices about the typeface we use. Even before Word Processors, the influence of type on readers was ... Read more
  • Commonly confused words

    English is widely regarded as having become the global language and is the dominant international language in communications, science, and business. You would think that with English being so prominent in arenas of logic and commerce, that it would be concise, precise, and devoid of ambiguity. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As Doug ... Read more
last updated: April 24, 2013
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