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The Write Stuff
February 2023 Volume 19 Issue 2

Don’t sabotage your writing

When you’re writing for business, whether you’re trying to sell something or providing information via a blog post, website or report, you’re being judged. But it’s different from school when teachers graded your writing efforts; in the business world there’s no room for mediocrity—everything is either pass (succeed) or fail.To ensure your content moves you to the head of the class, so to speak, it’s best to choose your words carefully to eliminate the possibility of making an error, significant or trivial. While you could perhaps bounce back from a grade of D or F in school, as a business professional you only get one shot at making a stellar first impression.Here are a few word choice pointers to ensure you’re not unintentionally sabotaging your writing:

  • waiver or waver—These homonyms don’t mean the same thing; the former means to relinquish a right while the latter means to feel indecisive or swing unsteadily.
  • inbetween or in between—The former isn’t a word; in between is two words, with a hyphen being added if it serves as an adjective, i.e., in-between stage. Also be aware that depending on usage, between—minus in—may be the right word choice.
  • follow up or follow-up—The former is correct when used as a verb, i.e., please follow up on that, while the latter is correct for use as a noun or adjective, i.e., that follow-up was outstanding or the follow-up report is due.
  • its or their—The former is correct unless referring to people; the company released its annual report, the team earned its bonus, and Jenna and Gabe received their promotions are all correct.

While you’re writing, if you’re in doubt about whether you’re making the right word choice, take the time to do a quick online search. I do that all the time.

Hail to the chiefs

Is February 20 Presidents Day, President’s Day or Presidents’ Day? You may see all three versions of this holiday as it nears but only one of them is grammatically correct—the last one. The reason is rather simple: we celebrate the birthdays of two presidents, Washington and Lincoln, so the apostrophe goes outside of the s to denote a plural possessive. Using President’s would reflect honoring just one president while not using an apostrophe at all ignores the need for a possessive.

Cut it out

Using punctation correctly helps readers understand your message. When you want to insert a pause in a sentence or an aside—like this—the proper punctation mark to use is an em dash, i.e., long dash. It’s not correct to use an ellipses in that situation because those three little dots note an intentional omission of a word, sentence or whole section without altering its meaning. For example, instead of writing our 2022 earnings, although poor, show great promise, you could write our 2022 earnings . . . show great promise.

Published On: February 15th, 2023 / Categories: 2023 /

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