Monthly writing and grammar tips
Numbers in business and technical writing
In business writing, a generally accepted rule is to spell out numbers from one to nine and use numerals for 10 and above. Some organisations change at 11 rather than 10.
Numerals are usually used in scientific and technical writing, and increasingly I am seeing some organisations use numerals in all documents. Maybe this is a new trend.
If you follow the one-to-nine rule, treat ordinals (first, second, 10th) the same way.
She came third in the race.
Her friend came 44th.
If there is a small and large number in the same sentence, some people use numerals for both numbers, but others retain the normal convention.
She wore 7 bracelets and 14 necklaces.
She wore seven bracelets and 14 necklaces.
Read the rest of my blog which covers:
- How to write large numbers
- When to use numerals
- Abbreviations with numbers
- Hyphens with numbers
Reduce clutter in your board papers
Many writers struggle with what to put in and what to leave out of a board or committee paper. Part of the difficulty is that board papers have to be SO concise these days. Gone are the days when you could write 10 pages. Now most boards want two-to-four pages max.
Read my blog for some tips on how to reduce clutter from your first draft.
Readers’ questions and comments
Q: There is something that I keep seeing in messages and work emails which disturbs me, and I hope you will be able to advise. It is the omission of apostrophes in contractions, such as ‘Im’ instead of ‘I’m’ or ‘Id’ instead of ‘I’d. Is this a new ‘thing’ or are there just a lot of lazy people around?
A: I would hate this as much as you do. We are more forgiving about typos in emails than other forms of communication, but there’s no excuse for not adding apostrophes in contractions. Spellcheck should pick that up.
ISO standards for dates
A reader commented that there is an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard for dates (ISO 8601-1 2019).
Unfortunately, you have to buy the standard to find out what it says. Here’s a Wikipedia link – if you have a better summary, let me know.
Single or double quotation marks
Q: Should you use single or double quotation marks?
A: This is a style choice. Read my post on quotation marks.
Want to learn more about writing and grammar? Take a look at my online courses.
A reader’s pet peeve is the increasing misuse of the word ‘refute’ (instead of ‘rebut’ or ‘denies’) in media reports.
So what’s the difference?
‘To rebut is to argue against something. If your parents say you’re too young and irresponsible to drive, you can rebut their claim by ticking off examples of your responsibility.
‘The verb refute is to prove that something is wrong. When the kids you’re babysitting swear they brushed their teeth, you can refute their claim by presenting the dry toothbrushes.’
Interesting stuff about writing
How to begin and end paragraphs
With paragraphs getting shorter, it’s no wonder that the old rules about paragraph structure are changing. I can remember learning TEEL (topic sentence, explain, expand and link). Read the new guidelines.
The benefits of online classes
I believe face-to-face workshops and online classes are both useful, but online has some distinct benefits. Read more.
Singular or plural verb with ‘one of’
Would you say ‘one of the novels that have…’ or ‘one of the novels that has…’? The answer might surprise you.
Wordplay: Plural pathways
Would you say ‘cheese’ or ‘cheeses’? Read more.
Quote of the month
‘The covers of this book are too far apart.’
Ambrose Bierce, American author