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5 Grammar Watch Items

1. Short Concise Simple

The chances of getting into a grammatical bind treble the longer the sentence.  When your sentence is the length of a paragraph – ABORT!!  Our first tip in this series is to start by writing concise declarative sentences.  For business and technical writing, keep your sentences short and your words simple.  The aim of the writing piece is to make understanding easier and communication clearer.

2. Plain English

You know your stuff!  Excellent, pat yourself on the back … now change your style.  All the technical jargon, acronyms and business speak might be impressive in small doses, but when writing, you cannot assume that everyone has your level of expertise or inside knowledge.  Clear communication needs to be plain – if a scientific or technical word has an everyday English equivalent, please use it.  Your target audience will thank you for it.

3. Punctuation Matters

  • Don’t be afraid to use the simple full stop.  You might be tempted to go crazy on the commas, but often it is better to just end the sentence and start a new one.  (Remember Tip 1.)
  • Pause for a cause and make peace with the comma.  The comma is often misused by either being used excessively or far too sparingly.  Find a balance, be consistent and strike a pause.
  • Exclamation marks are very rarely needed in business writing!!!!  (If you insist on using an exclamation mark, please only ever use one.)  These days, the exclamation mark is often used to express sarcasm, passive aggressiveness and general exaggeration.  If that is your intention, then perhaps you better reconsider whether your communication should be put in writing.

4. Verb Tensions

Verb tenses in a writing piece need to be consistent.  If you are writing about something which happened in the simple past tense, consistently use the simple past tense and don’t suddenly switch to perfect tense.

  • Inconsistent: Melissa went to the local supermarket and has shopped in the milk aisle.
  • Consistent: Melissa went to the local supermarket and shopped in the milk aisle.

Ensure subject-verb agreement.  This means the subject of the sentence needs to match the verb used.

  • Incorrect: The data is clear.
  • Correct: The data are clear.

5. Homophone Phobia

The words that sound alike but mean very different things are little tricksters for business writers.  Spell check won’t catch them, and half the time, neither will the grammar check.  Watch out for some of the following:

  • They’re (they are); their (belonging to them); there (in that direction / place)
  • Principal (the head of the school, the main point); principle (the rule, belief)
  • Compliment (verb: to praise / noun: an expression of praise); complement (verb: to match, to complete)
  • Effect (noun: result); affect (verb: to influence)

There are so many tips and tricks to make your writing better.  If you can’t wait to find out more or simply think it’s time to get your words onto the page, why not attend our next Document Writing Essentials course?

We look forward to seeing you there.