Glen Danzig on words:
“But when you get to a song, not only do you have to do a vocal melody,
you have to write words and not be redundant and make some semblance of a story.”
CONGRATULATIONS to Erroll Kamel! Erroll is the winner of a $25 Starbucks gift card, after his name was drawn randomly from all participants in the first On Words Quiz! Have you taken the quiz yet? You still can, just for fun.
This month, we look at avoiding redundancies and at the use and overuse of ‘etc.’ in business communications:
My grandmother liked to preface her opinions with, “To tell you the honest truth…”, as if there was any other kind! Many of us use redundancies in speech and even in writing. Some do it for emphasis, but it rarely enhances, and typically bloats, communication. In some instances, redundancies such as ‘free gift’ in promotional writing can be effective, but generally, they are unnecessarily repetitive. Here are some common business redundancies, excerpted from a more general list of 200 Common Redundancies, by Richard Nordquist: Read More
Guest post from our U.S. partner Text100 and its Hypertext blog. Insights for this post were taken from the Text100 Influence Index: Paving the Path to Advocacy. Authored by Rowan Benecke.
A major goal for B2B companies is reaching decision-makers to keep their product top-of-mind and ultimately result in sales. However, given the proliferation of content and general noise in the B2B industry, it’s hard to keep track of who is actually influencing buying decisions. Based on surveying more than 1,900 decision-makers, our Influence Index revealed the major influencers impacting business decision-makers and what they purchase.
In order to make the right choices regarding who to target to ensure your brand is part of the product buying conversation, decision makers (unsurprisingly) turn to sources they trust, who are highly influential in the decision-making process. Typically, these influencers fall into three main buckets:
If we go back 60 years, salesmen were responsible for the majority of a company’s sales (save those generated from advertising). Literally men travelled door to door selling products, speaking directly with consumers.
Not anymore. The reality is that today, nearly 60 per cent of B2B purchasing decisions are already made before customers contact your company, as recently revealed by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB).
The tide has turned, and the way customers move through the buying cycle has evolved to a ‘self-service’ model to research and decide for themselves whether they want to purchase before speaking with anyone. Read More
Oscar Wilde on words:
“I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.”
QUIZ alert! Next month, you can test your grammar knowledge in our first quiz. Questions will cover many of the grammar and usage guidelines we’ve reviewed so far. There will even be a PRIZE! Did you know some of the most frequently-made grammar faux pas are ones you might consider small, grammar 101 errors? For example, check out our look at mixing up ‘compose’ and ‘comprise’ or ‘less’ and ‘fewer’. It’s easy to forget the basics. This blog is intended to refresh and extend your grammar skills. Here is this month’s guide:
Less or Fewer?
Choosing whether to use ‘less’ or ‘fewer’ should be easy, but it is often the subject of second guesses. Although many people don’t use ‘fewer’ in their regular speech because it sounds too formal, there are cases where it is the better choice. Tip: Use ‘fewer’ in reference to things that can be counted, (fewer cars, men, women, people, things, etc.). Use ‘less’ when referring to things that cannot as easily be counted (less air, gas, time, etc.). For example: “There are fewer people in the neighbourhood, with less time to get together.” Read More
Mark Twain on words:
“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
Thanks to reader Elizabeth Fawcett, for her comments about several common grammar errors, some of which we will cover in this April post of OnWords. They include using terms like ‘very unique’, as well as failure to use parallel structure.
Here is this month’s mini grammar and usage guide:
Further or Farther?
Do you want to go further or farther? It depends on what you are talking about. If you want get deeper into a discussion, you would go further. If you want increase distance, you would go farther. Tip: Use ‘farther’ for physical distance and ‘further’ for metaphorical or figurative distance. It sounds simple but there are other considerations. For example, to interrupt someone, do you say, “Before we go any further” or “Before we go any farther?” Both meanings are implied — figurative and physical distance. ‘Further’ and ‘farther’ have been used interchangeably since both first appeared in the 14th century, and you’re not really wrong either way, but several grammarians suggest ‘further’ sounds better when the meaning is in question. Tip 2: When in doubt, use ‘further’. It usually sounds better in ambiguous cases. Read More
Stephen King on words:
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
Thank you to our readers for continuing to submit great topic suggestions and pet grammar peeves. In this issue we share comments from readers regarding the use of ‘bad’ versus ‘badly’, and we set the record straight. We also look at American versus Canadian spelling.
Stephen King avoids using adverbs, while J.K. Rowling, he says, “never met (an adverb) she didn’t like.” Author M.J. Ryan has observed Rowling is prone to modifying every “he said” with politely, dejectedly, resoundingly, and the like. While there is disagreement among writers on the value of adverbs, they can be very useful, even in business communications, by adding context to a verb and answering how, where, when or why. Example: “John stressed that point repeatedly throughout his keynote.” Read More
We love feedback. We’re posting this extra, special edition to highlight three grammar issues suggested by OnWords reader and Executive Speech Coach, George Torok. Thank you, George! Send in your topic ideas and we’ll cover those too.
Speaking of irregular verbs, as we were in the latest edition of OnWords, George suggested we cover the difference in usage of lay and lie:
Lay vs. Lie – These two simple words are considered among some grammarians to be the most commonly confused verbs. One writer, Jon Gingerich, who wrote ’20 Common Grammar Mistakes that (Almost) Everyone Makes’, calls it “the crown jewel of all grammatical errors.” ‘Lay’ is one of those unusual verbs irregular in spelling, like pay/paid – but not in pronunciation. The most important tip to remember is that ‘lay’ is a transitive verb, and as such, requires an object, as in “I’ll lay the book on the table.” ‘Lie’ is an intransitive verb and does not require an object. Example: “The town lies at the foot of the mountain.” Read More
Gertrude Stein on words:
“I really don’t know anything that is more exciting than diagramming sentences.”
A new year begins …a new opportunity to refresh our goals and our business communications skills. Here is this month’s mini grammar and usage guide, with some useful quick tips: Read More
The death of the press release is a favourite topic for media and communications professionals. Recently, it flared up again when Alex Aiken, executive director of US government communications made the (bold?) declaration that, yes, the press release is dead.
Aiken’s argument, as described by PR Week is that public relations pros should be content producers. Here’s the quote:
“You should not start with three pages of A4, but a tweet, an infographic or a video. If you are writing more than 200 words on any subject, you’re probably in the wrong place.”
I understand where Aiken is coming from. Social media has changed the way we get our messages out. I would argue no profession knows that better than journalists, who not only use Twitter and Facebook (and others) as a listening tool, but perhaps more importantly as a platform to project their content. Read More
“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
In this edition of OnWords, the focus is on common misspellings, the use of exclamation points from the celebrated grammar book Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, and the use of business jargon. Here is this month’s mini grammar and usage guide to give you quick, at-a-glance tips for better business communications. Read More