Writing E-Tips
August 2004   
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"A person's accomplishments in life are the cumulative effect of attention to detail."

--- John Foster Dulles   

The following tips come from

Write for Business:
A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating

Proofreading for Correct Copy, Part II

In our June issue, we began looking at common errors to check for when proofreading. We continue with that focus this month. Proofreading is an important step in the writing process. Remember, it’s the little details that will point out your professionalism.

Comma errors. The misuse of commas is one of the most common errors in business writing. Here are some basic rules to follow:
  • Set off long introductory phrases or clauses with commas. Let your reader catch a breath after any long modifying phrase or clause that opens a sentence.

    For the past nine months, In-Bloom Florist has been ordering fresh, dried, and silk flowers from Cottonwood Hills.

  • Separate independent clauses. Place a comma before the coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence.

    Our orders have always been accurately and quickly processed, and we continue to be impressed with the quality of your products.

  • Set off all nonessential or explanatory elements. This includes any words, phrases, or clauses that are inserted to give additional information.

    In-Bloom, Springfield’s fastest growing florist shop, plans to open a second shop in Greenburg, which is a growing community outside of Birmingham.

  • Place commas between two or more adjectives that equally modify the noun. Unequal adjectives are not separated by a comma. To test for equal adjectives, try changing the order of the adjectives. If the sentence still makes sense, the adjectives are equal and should be separated by a comma.

    Using a database software package can be a reliable, efficient solution to many small-business problems. (It could be “an efficient, reliable solution” as well. The adjectives are equal.)

Mechanical errors. Nothing says “unprofessional” like simple mechanical errors.

  • Capitalize proper names of people, places, and things. This includes specific organizations, events, and job titles when they precede a person’s name. General words and titles are not capitalized.

    Wagner Manufacturing Company;
       the corporation
    Vice President Wagner;
       our supervisor

  • Abbreviate the names of organizations only if they are abbreviated in the official name. Otherwise, spell out words like “company” or “corporation” when they are part of a proper name.

    Rankin Chemical Corp.

  • Use acronyms or initialisms (CIA, NASA) only if they are generally known. Capitalize all letters and avoid periods.

    NAACP       HUD       MADD

  • Spell and use words correctly. Watch out for confusing word pairs (to, too, two) and check key words and proper names. After you use a spell-checker on your computer, read through your copy to make sure all words have been caught.

You can learn more about proofreading on pages 156-157 of Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating. You will also find a detailed “Proofreader’s Guide” on pages 187-266 to help you with grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, and mechanics. In addition, pages 217-222 include a list of commonly misspelled words.

Coming in the September Issue:
“Creating Strong Design”

Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating is available for purchase at 1-800-261-0637 ext. 10, or on the Web at www.upwritepress.com.

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“Writing E-Tips” is a publication of UpWrite Press, Inc., P.O. Box 460, Burlington, Wisconsin 53105.
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