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December 2015 Volume 11 Issue 12

The Write Stuff

December 2015  Volume 11 Issue 12

Naughty or Nice?

 

I’m no Santa, but I certainly can create a “naughty or nice” list (and it doesn’t involve doling out lumps of coal).

Nice

  • People who take the time to proof their copy to ensure it doesn’t contain typos or other easily correctable mistakes. They clearly understand that spell check doesn’t take the place of a thorough review, preferably by a second set of eyes. Imagine the embarrassment that could have been avoided if the person who wrote “pubic parking” realized his error before it went public.
  • People who understand that writing copy for business purposes is not the time to show off their stellar vocabulary. For example, instead of “deleterious, “ameliorate,” and “promulgate,” use “harmful,” “improve,” and “issue or publish.” Readers are unlikely to look up words they don’t understand; they may simply choose to stop reading.
  • Everyone who reads this newsletter. Best of the season to you, and I hope 2016 brings you nothing but joy.

Naughty

  • People who still put two spaces after periods. Yes, those of us of a certain age were taught to do that when we learned to type on typewriters. Don’t see those too much anymore (if at all), and you also shouldn’t see more than one space after a period.
  • People who insist on capitalizing words like “bank” and “company” when referring to their own organizations. Within legal documents, that may be standard, but in all other copy, it’s just wrong.
  • Anyone who isn’t a regular reader of this newsletter. These may be the same people who leave shopping carts in the middle of parking spaces or don’t use turn signals. Definitely naughty.

 

Less is More

Twitter users know how precious each word is, since they’re limited to 140 characters in each Tweet. I wish all writers embraced the concept of less is more, since less is also usually more compelling.

Something I often see that’s contrary to the less is more philosophy is the use of “current” when asking for information like age: “What’s your current age?” “What’s your age?” is better. I doubt anyone would answer the latter question with a past age (and eliminating “current” saves seven characters for those who are counting).

Plural or Singular?

I recently edited copy written by someone who was trying to be politically correct by using both “he” and “she” instead of one or the other. The writer’s intent was certainly good — being inclusive — but the result was a bit clunky.

My solution to this is moving from singular to plural. Thus, “If the CEO determines he can’t…” changes to “If CEOs determine they can’t…” and “When the VP realizes her work…” becomes “When VPs realize their work…” This is actually more inclusive, since no gender is specified.

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