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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    Spelling Rules: i Before e

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Use i before e except after c, or when sounded like a as in freight and eighty.

    deceit ceiling belief piece

    Exceptions: This sentence can help you remember eight exceptions:

    Neither sheik dared leisurely seize either weird species of financiers.

    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.

    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

    Writing Rules: y as the Last Letter

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    If a word ends in a y preceded by a consonant, change the y to i before adding any suffix, unless the suffix is ing.

    worry - worrisome - worrying
    study - studious - studying
    lazy - laziness
    try - tried - trying

    If a word ends in a y preceded by a vowel, form the plural by simply adding an s.

    key - keys
    day - days
    play - plays

    (From Write for Business, page 216, and Proofreader's Guide PDF, page 28)

    Writing Rules: Silent e

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    If a word ends with a silent e, keep the e when adding a suffix beginning with a consonant. Drop the e when adding a suffix beginning with a vowel.

    hope - hopeful - hoping
    care - careless - caring
    value - valuelessvaluable
    love - lovelorn - lovable

    Exceptions: courageous, noticeable, judgment

    (From Write for Business, page 216, and Proofreader's Guide PDF, page 28)

    Writing Rules: Final Consonant

    Thursday, January 07, 2010

    If a single-syllable word (for example, sad) ends with a consonant (d) preceded by a single vowel (a), double the final consonant before adding a suffix beginning with a vowel (saddest).

    tap - tapping
    plan - planner

    If a multisyllable word (admit) ends in a consonant (t) preceded by a single vowel (i), the accent is on the last syllable (ad-mit), and the suffix begins with a vowel (ed) - the same rule holds true: double the final consonant (admitted).

    occur - occurrence
    refer - referring

    (From Write for Business, page 216, and Proofreader's Guide PDF, page 28)