Write for Business - Blog

UpWrite Press understands the importance of writing skills in business: We're business people just like you. On this blog you'll find tips to improve your writing, along with topics of interest to our staff.

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    Types of Sentences: Compound-Complex

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    A compound-complex sentence has two or more independent clauses (in red) and one or more dependent clauses (in bold).

    If I'm feeling spunky, I run, too, but I can never keep up with the dogs.
    (one dependent clause; two independent clauses)

    For more business-writing tips, browse our blog or use the search box atop the page. Or purchase our handy Proofreader's Guide ebook or Write for Business handbook.

    Types of Sentences: Complex

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    A complex sentence has only one independent clause (in red) and one or more dependent clauses (in bold). Dependent clauses usually begin with relative pronouns or subordinating conjunctions.

    When the weather is nice, I walk the dogs for several miles.
    (one dependent clause; one independent clause)
    When we get to the parkway, and if there are only a few people around, Felix and Hairy can run free.
    (two dependent clauses; one independent clause)

    For more business-writing tips, browse our blog or use the search box atop the page. Or purchase our handy Proofreader's Guide ebook or Write for Business handbook.

    Types of Sentences: Compound

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    A compound sentence has two or more independent clauses without any dependent clauses. The clauses are most often joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, or, so, but), by punctuation, or by both.

    The dogs get weekly baths, so what is that smell?
    It can't be the cat; Missy is a fastidious selfgroomer.

    Note: Correlative conjunctions are also used to join the clauses in a compound sentence.

    Either the dogs got into the garbage or Missy's been mouse hunting.

    In addition, semicolons and conjunctive adverbs can be used in compound sentences.

    Cats and dogs can be "friends"; still, there are certain limitations.

    For more business-writing tips, browse our blog or use the search box atop the page. Or purchase our handy Proofreader's Guide ebook or Write for Business handbook.

    Writing, and All That Jazz

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    Recently, while listening to NPR on the way to work, I heard neuroscientist Dr. Charles Limb describe an experiment to map the creative process. An amateur musician himself, he placed a series of jazz pianists in an MRI machine, gave them a non-magnetic keyboard and earphones, and watched their brains as they improvised music.

    One detail in particular made me happy: He said that during the creative process, the critiquing portions of the prefrontal lobe were quiet, while playful parts of the brain went to work. As one pianist told him, you have to be willing to make mistakes before you can get in "the zone."

    This matches something UpWrite Press has been teaching for years about writing: The early stages should be about generating ideas and copy without worrying about grammar and spelling. Editing for correctness can come later.

    The fact that creativity and critique cannot work simultaneously is something visual artists have long understood. That's why they make a sketch before tackling a project. It's also why poets "invoke the muse" (begging for inspiration) before beginning to versify.

    For more evidence of the need to separate creative time from critiquing time, I'd point to Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson's recent article, "Why Letting Yourself Make Mistakes Means Making Fewer of Them," on the Psychology Today Web site. She says, "Give yourself permission to screw-up. Start any new project by saying 'I'm not going to be good at this right away, I'm going to make mistakes, and that's okay.'"

    Are you convinced yet? Have you tried drafting without critiquing first? Or does something different work for you? If you have a secret for getting the writing ball rolling, we'd love to hear it!

    - Lester Smith

    Photo by ssoosay

    Putting the "Write" Foot Forward

    Wednesday, January 05, 2011

    Photo of men's dress shoesJoe Navarro worked 25 years for the FBI as a counterintelligence special agent and is now a consultant for three other government offices in Washington. A specialist in body language, he says he has been stunned to discover just how ill-equipped businesspeople are to present themselves effectively in person. (You can read more about Navarro in "Secrets Of Nonverbal Communication" by Susan Adams at Forbes.com.)

    I have a similar feeling about business writing. During 25 years in publishing, I've met many brilliant businesspeople who simply don't write well. The difference is that while few of us were taught anything about body language in school, writing has long been a subject of study, with grades attached. Unfortunately, writing in school has often involved literary theme papers, which may seem far from down-to-earth matters of business.

    As a result, many otherwise brilliant businesspeople are actually disdainful of good writing. If the message gets across, they may argue, what do a few grammar and spelling errors matter, let alone matters of style? This rationale misses two important points.

    First, every bit of unnecessary energy a reader expends to comprehend a message is money lost. We all know how physically draining it can be just to clear an e-mail inbox. Does this message need my attention? Does it give me all the information I need for action, or will I have to request clarification and watch for a second message to arrive? Exactly what is this writer trying to say? Poorly written e-mail reduces productivity. So do poorly designed PowerPoint presentations, and reports, and instruction manuals, and so on. Good writing saves money.

    Second, writing errors are like stains on a tie or spinach in the teeth. It's difficult to pay attention to a message when blemishes in grammar and spelling keep drawing our attention away. It's even more difficult to see the sense of a message when issues of style cloud the surface. Poor writing has its own cost.

    Navarro mentions scuffed shoes as a common faux pas among men, in particular. An otherwise professional suit of clothing can be undermined by this one area of neglect. Surely business writing deserves a bit of polish as well.

    —Lester Smith

    Photo by nitecruise