Using Contractions in Business Writing

using contractions in business writing

Using Contractions in Business Writing is OK

Many business people believe using contractions in business writing is a big “no-no.” They think of contractions as a breach of formality, or as unprofessional, or sloppy. It’s commonly assumed that using contractions in business documents creates risks like:

  • No one will respect you.
  • Your message (or credibility) is somehow diminished as too informal, breezy and unprofessional.

Hooey. Well, mostly hooey. Continue reading Using Contractions in Business Writing

Reference List of Phrasal Adjectives

Reference List of Phrasal Adjectives

Reference List of Phrasal Adjectives — aka Compound Adjectives or Compound Modifiers

We offer the list of phrasal adjectives below to readers as a helpful reference tool. The first list contains reliable examples of correctly hyphenated phrasal adjectives. The second list illustrates some key exceptions to the rule, showing when hyphens should not be used. Continue reading Reference List of Phrasal Adjectives

Em Dash, En Dash, or Hyphen (Dash)?

It’s clear that these three dash types don’t get the respect they deserve­­­—as indicated by the fact that many of you are wondering what the heck I’m talking about.


Yes, it’s true. Three different dashes, each with distinct uses:

–  Short (the hyphen or dash)
–  Medium (the en dash)
—  Long (the em dash)

Getting these dashes right is important, even though it seems a minor punctuation detail not worth bothering over (and most writers don’t). Proper use of the em dash, en dash, and hyphen distinguishes you as a competent writer and expands your expressive options. Unfortunately, many business people have little time to parse such detail, and frequently, in fact more often than not, don’t bother.

So, how is each of these distinct dash types used? Continue reading Em Dash, En Dash, or Hyphen (Dash)?

Ampersand Usage — “&” or “And”?

Ampersand Samples sm
Ampersand Usage Rules

Writers in business contexts often appear clueless when using ampersands, and they frequently get ampersand usage wrong.  I see it every day in my commercial copy editing work.

But &  and and have distinct functions, meanings, and uses. Worse, writers commonly and casually overuse & as a fully interchangeable equivalent of and. That’s why we assembled this easy list of ampersand usage rules. Continue reading Ampersand Usage — “&” or “And”?

Hyphenating Phrasal Adjectives

Phrasal Adjectives — aka Compound Adjectives or Compound Modifiers

Phrasal adjectives (also called compound adjectives) are hyphenated. For the most part. Are you among the zillions of writers who miss this signal detail? Don’t be. Just follow the fairly straightforward rules and exceptions explained here, and you’ll master this important writing tool.

get-hyphensWhat is a phrasal adjective? Phrases often function as adjectives. When a number of words together modify or describe a noun, the phrase is ordinarily hyphenated.

The general rule: if two or more consecutive words make sense only when understood together as an adjective modifying a noun, hyphenate those words. (But, grasping the rule’s exceptions is just as important.) Continue reading Hyphenating Phrasal Adjectives

Punctuation of Bullet Lists

Punctuating Bullet Lists is Widely Misunderstood

Everyone uses bullet lists (vertical lists in which the order of listed items doesn’t matter and items are preceded by the same mark, usually a “•”). They’ve become increasingly popular as data and content explode. Business writers rely heavily on lists to grab readers’ attention and convey information quickly. Despite their utility, writers often ignore or misunderstand proper punctuation of bullet lists. As an editor I’ve witnessed first-hand how this problem regularly embarrasses business writers. Incorrect punctuation of bullet lists is a distraction and bad for readability and your message.

Here are some simple rules to help you get it right. Continue reading Punctuation of Bullet Lists