My Pet Peeves
It’s been some time since I showcased a list of my writing pet peeves. While I’m editing others’ work — to ensure it’s error-free and reads well — I often see things to correct some might let go, but they annoy me.
As I’ve said before, there are many gray areas in writing, thus room for self-expression. Here are some of my no-nos.
- including but not limited to — The definition of including is “containing as part of the whole being considered.” Thus, when you introduce a list of words with including, that means you’re not providing the whole, i.e., there could be more. Adding but not limited to is redundant. It’s also lawyer-speak, so you may see it in contracts as a CYA, but it doesn’t belong in typical business writing.
- unique selling proposition or USP — There are two things that aggrieve me regarding acronym introduction, starting with the use of or. The phrase should be unique selling proposition (USP). Then, since you’ve introduced USP, the acronym should be used in all future references in the document rather than spelling out unique selling propositionagain.
- that — While you don’t need to banish that from your writing, you should double-check to ensure it’s truly needed. I recently removed four uses of thatfrom one sentence, making it much shorter and easier to read. I remove more thats from copy than any other word. I also see plenty of instances where that is the wrong word; it should be who if you are referring to a person or people, i.e., the people who are reading this newsletter. Using thatinstead of who is an error you’ll see over and over again if you start looking for it.
- in order — When I see a sentence that begins with this phrase, my fingers automatically move to the delete key. Since brevity is a goal of business writing, To source more face masks… is better than In order to source more face masks…, right?
- its and their — Companies and teams should be referred to using its, e.g., The company released its annual report or The team gave its best effort. This is proper grammar, but many writers use their in those cases instead.
I could go on, but I’ll leave you with these five. Do you have any writing pet peeves to share with me?
And or Ampersand?
If you think and and the ampersand (&) are interchangeable, you are incorrect. Business writers should generally not use ampersands in regular text, headings or titles as a replacement for and.
Ampersands can be used in proper nouns (Jones & Sons); titles of creative works such as novels, songs, and albums; common shorthand expressions (R&D); names that are abbreviations (AT&T); when identifying more than one addressee (Adrienne & Cubbie Moch); and in citations. Refrain from merely using it instead of and in copy.
Client Focus: TWBC
If you enjoy listening to audiobooks and walking, have I got the group for you: The Walking Book Club. Founder Julie Kaminski designed the club to make exercise and activity more enjoyable, productive, and fun. The only “rule” is you have to be moving to listen.
I have the honor of helping Julie polish her weekly communications and other written materials. I’m so impressed with her focus on mind, body and soul. Check it out at TWBC and sign up if you’re motivated to move while listening to great books.