Consistency matters in board papers
I’ve read a lot of board papers lately and been reminded of the need for consistency at every level of a paper. Consistent messaging provides clarity while inconsistent messaging leads to questioning and distrust.
When your formatting, word choice and styles are consistent, no feature stands out to distract readers from your main points. When your style choices are inconsistent, readers can get sidetracked and lose concentration.
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Hyphens in age ranges
Q: Do hyphens apply in number ranges with ages?
25-35-year-old men (number range)
A: Yes, they do. However, we often use an en rule rather than a hyphen to separate numbers.
If this seem clumsy, you can always reword the sentence.
men aged 25–35
I am not sure many people use en rules in business writing these days, but they are useful. If you want to know more, read my blog on em and en rules (also known as em and en dashes).
Q: The media and US writers put the day after the month, and I’ve noticed that creeping into Australian writing. For example, the pool will be closed from December 21 to December 29. I would rewrite this:
The pool will be closed 21 – 29 December. (no need to repeat the month).
A: As you said, the media and US put the day after the month, but business writers in Australia put the day before the month.
I agree that you don’t need to repeat the month in the example you gave. I would have closed the spaces around the en rule.
Read my blog about how to write dates in business writing.
Learn more about punctuation with one of my online courses.
Words of the year
Q: In your last e-newsletter, you mentioned two words of the year: they and cancel culture. Why was they chosen and what does cancel culture mean?
A: I assume that Merriam-Webster chose they to indicate that it is now a mainstream singular pronoun. In my opinion, it has been in common usage for ages.
I had never heard the expression cancel culture (chosen by Macquarie Dictionary). It means the online phenomenon of boycotting public figures, especially celebrities, who say or do the wrong thing.
Interesting articles about writing
Pause and effect: The past and future of punctuation marks
It’s good to be reminded that punctuation is not static. Read more.
Writing about business (without being a bore)
‘Emails, reports, blog posts, tweets, articles – whatever you write at work says a lot about you and your business.’ Read more.
There are more negatively-loaded words than positive ones. So what?
It had never occurred to me that there might be more negatively-loaded words than positive ones. Does that mean we find it easier to be negative than positive? Read more.
Five principles to follow if you want to influence others
Have you ever stopped to think how much of your day is spent influencing others? Read more.
Wordplay: Walk a mile in my jandals
I moved from New Zealand to Australia many years ago and still use the word ‘jandals’. But I was shocked to read that Kiwis say ‘sweet’ a lot. It apparently means ‘thanks’, ‘no worries’, ‘that’s OK’ or ‘that’s awesome’. Read David Astle’s word experience in New Zealand.
Quote of the month
‘Style to be good must be clear. Clearness is secured by using words that are current and ordinary.’