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The Write Stuff
August 2023 Volume 19 Issue 8

Punctuation potpourri

The way a sentence is punctuated can guide readers toward understanding or do the opposite—confusing them or even changing the intended meaning. The creative cover of Eats, Shoots & Leaves features a panda bear attempting to remove the comma from the sentence so it reflects what it eats rather than someone finishing a meal, using a firearm and making their escape.While most punctuation mistakes aren’t that dramatic, when you’re writing for business it’s always best to ensure your grammar is impeccable. With that in mind, let’s talk about hyphens, exclamation points and something you may not know about defining acronyms.HyphensThe “little brother” of the en dash (–), used primarily to separate dates or times, and the em dash (—), used to indicate a pause in copy, hyphens are most often used to join words to indicate they have a combined meaning or are linked in the grammar of a sentence. Here are a few things to be aware of when using them:

  • Adverbs ending in ly aren’t hyphenated, e.g., highly affordable, properly positioned.
  • Words beginning with multi aren’t hyphenated, e.g., multipurpose, multifaceted.
  • Many words are hyphenated when they modify a noun but not in other uses, e.g., third-party payor, a third party was present or day-to-day tasks, the things we do from day to day.
  • Hyphens can also imply a missing or implied element, e.g., short- and long-term consequences.

Exclamation pointsUsually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or show emphasis, exclamation points should be used sparingly—if at all—in business writing. While they may be okay in small doses in sales copy, they’re really not appropriate in any type of formal writing where a neutral tone of voice and punctuation is necessary.Acronym definitions When you use an acronym for the first time in a document, it’s best to define it by including what it’s short for in parenthesis. But don’t assume because acronyms are capitalized, the definition should be too. Here are four examples from the world of finance:

  • RIA (registered investment advisor)
  • NUA (net unrealized appreciation)
  • QED (qualified charitable distribution)
  • RMD (required minimum distribution)

Is it worth making the effort to ensure your business writing is error-free? Certainly some people won’t notice small miscues—but isn’t it a better strategy to aim for perfection as a point of personal pride and a way to impress anyone who reads what you write?

Time for cake

Late August/early September is a celebratory time for me for personal and business reasons. On Sept. 1, 2004, I became an entrepreneur—taking the brave step of leaving my job to become a freelancer. Thank you to everyone who’s supported my journey as I celebrate the 19th anniversary of Adrienne Moch Writing & Editing. Plus, August 23 marks 22 years since I moved to San Diego and August 31 is my birthday.

Establish your brand voice

I’ve written previously about the importance of having a style guide to direct those who create content for your business so everyone—writers and designers—is on the same page. Another document that will support your communications efforts is a brand voice guide. It should lay out the language, messaging examples, tone and personality of your brand to ensure your audience can count on that consistency.

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

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