Some of you may have noticed that you haven’t received my ‘monthly’ e-newsletter for a while. I have been busy writing a young-adult novel that I started a couple of years ago.
Writing it has reminded me why I both love and hate writing. I love it because ideas float around my head and entertain me and there is always more to learn about the craft of writing. I hate it because writing is difficult and there is a big gap between what is in my head and what appears on the paper.
Proofreading my manuscript has reminded me how often I miss out words and don’t even notice that I have done so. To help me fill in the missing words, I used the Read Aloud function in Microsoft Word for the first time and found it useful. I recommend it! You can find it in Review.
Thirteen tweets on business writing
In January 2019, Harvard linguist Steven Pinker wrote 13 tweets on writing. I decided to do the same for business writing.
Read my 13 tweets.
Is there anything you would add?
Readers’ questions and comments
Communications versus communication
Q: We see titles such as ‘Director of Communications’ or phrases such as ‘worked in communications for …’
Should we be saying communication or communications?
A: Based on dictionary definitions (e.g. Merriam-Webster) you could argue that humans are involved in ‘communication’ and ‘communications’ is about technology, such as telephone systems.
Using that argument, you would say:
- Director of Communication
- She worked in communication
However, in practice, I think ‘communication’ and ‘communications’ are used interchangeably, and ‘communications’ is often shortened to ‘comms’.
- Director of Communications
- She worked in communications
- She worked in comms
What do you think?
Read Michael M. Ndonye’s scholarly article Disambiguating the Terms “Communication” and “Communications”.
Have you noticed?
Readers have commented on the following language trends:
- Food shows can’t resist adding prepositions to verbs:
- Sweat down
- Cook off
- Render down
- Sauté off
- Advertisements are treating adjectives as nouns
- Awaken your unbreakable (Toyota)
- Bring your Australian (Jacob’s Creek wine)
- Live curious (booking.com)
None and not only
Q: What’s the difference between none and not only?
A: None means ‘no one’ or ‘not any’.
Not only goes with but also. They are called correlative conjunctions and work in pairs to make elements in a sentence parallel. I commonly see also dropped. For example, I saw this sentence in the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘But having had the dubious honour of being dudded as minister not only by the then-Opposition but by her own colleagues, she’s the ALP’s closest thing to a cleanskin.’ (This sentence is about a politician in the Australian Labor Party.)
With also added, this sentence would read:
‘But having had the dubious honour of being dudded as minister not only by the then-Opposition but also by her own colleagues, she’s the ALP’s closest thing to a cleanskin.’
Do you think it is OK to drop the also?
You can separate but and also: Not only did she forget my birthday but she also forgot her own.
When to omit the definite article
Q: Why do we omit the definite article (the) in some phrases, such as ‘valid from date of issue’?
A: We tend to omit the definite article when the meaning is clear without it. For example:
- She has measles.
- He is chief financial officer.
Like many aspects of language, we are not consistent. Read this abstract for more information.
Half-price offer for my new punctuation course
I am reintroducing some short online courses, so would like to offer you 50% off the first one: An A to Z of Punctuation.
Normally, AUD155, you can register today for just AUD77.50 with the coupon code punctuate.
This comprehensive course will answer all your punctuation questions. And you get my Punctuation Guide for future reference.
This offer is available for a limited time, so act now.
Email me if you’d like your team or organisation to take advantage of this offer.
Interesting articles about writing
When to capitalise ‘the’ in publication titles
Would you write The New York Times or the New York Times? It depends what style guide you follow. Read what Grammar Girl has to say on this topic.
What happened when Trump tweeted the wrong ABC
Trump tweeted the wrong ABC and got a koala in response. Take a look.
The scourge of Muphry’s Law
David Astle looks at some typos that have lingered, such as an Australian $50 note (responsibilty) and a Chilean coin (REPUBLICA DE CHIIE).
Language of Obama vs Trump
‘How the president chooses his words is how he governs.’ By a former staffer of both administrations.
The hyphen affair
The AP Stylebook is struggling to get its act together on hyphens. What hope is there for the rest of us? Read more.
Quote of the month
‘The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.’
Author Terry Pratchett