Business Writing Workshop Frank Hurley and Donna Kain Strategies and Tips Writing free of errors that interfere with reader comprehension: Use punctuation correctly to avoid confusion. Use structures correctly to avoid confusion. Choose the right word from confusing pairs such as discretely/discreetly and affect/effect. Reasons we confuse some words They sound the same (“homonyms”) They’re spelled similarly The definitions are similar or related (e.g., “advice” and “advise”) Something to keep in mind: Something to keep in mind: Spell check will not save you. (But use it anyway. Grammar check may help) Common Homonym Problems There, their, they’re; your, you’re Its, it’s To, too, two Affect or effect Affect is usually a verb meaning "to influence." Effect is usually a noun meaning "result." When used as a verb, effect means "to cause." Among or Between Use “among” for arrangements involving more than 2 people or things. Use “between” for arrangements involving only 2 people or things. Example The consensus among pollsters is that the Democrats are set to pick up between 25 and 35 seats this fall. Amount or number Use amount to refer to a quantity. Use number to refer to people or things that can be counted. Examples The amount of gizmos is more than we can ship in on box. (incorrect) The number of gizmos is more than we can ship in on box. (incorrect) Complement and Compliment Complement is something that completes something else. A compliment is an expression of praise. Examples That picture complements the text. She complimented his work. “e.g.,” or “i.e.,” The abbreviation e.g. means "for example." The abbreviation i.e. means "that is.“ Examples Some parts are difficult to pack (e.g., the gizmo’s and the widgets). Some parts are difficult to pack (i.e., the shapes do not fit the packing well). Finally and Finely This confusion is usually a spelling error. The adverb finally means at last, coming at the end. The adverb finely (from fine) means precisely, minutely, or extremely well done. Good or well Good is usually an adjective (a good book, a good job). Well is usually an adverb (runs well, a wellwritten essay). Examples She did a good job. She did the job well. (Remember “bad” and “badly” too). Imply and Infer A speaker implies (or "suggests") something; a listener infers (or "deduces"). Examples The manager implied that I was a bad risk. I inferred from her remarks that she thought I was lazy. Lay and Lie Lay means to put or place; it takes a direct object. Lie means to rest or recline; it does not take a direct object. Examples Remember: chickens lay eggs; people lie down. Perquisite and Prerequisite A perquisite is a benefit (beyond pay) that is associated with a particular job. A prerequisite is something required as a prior condition of something else. Examples Proper insulation is the first prerequisite for the effective use of any energy-saving device. Than and Then Use than to make a comparison. Use then when referring to time. (Mistakes here are usually typos.) Examples The job was harder than I had expected. I sent two e-mails and then I called. Which and Who Who refers to people; which refers to things. Examples The man who just left drives a Mercedes, which is a very expensive car. Who and Whom Use who when a sentence requires a subject pronoun (equivalent to he or she). Use whom when a sentence requires an object pronoun (equivalent to him or her). In contemporary usage, who is often used in either case. Who and Whom Examples We need people who can lift 70 lbs. for this job. To whom will you give the job? TIP: see if you can substitute “him” or “her” in a related sentence. “We will give the job to him” (use whom). “She can lisft 70 lbs” (use who). Use a comma before a coordinator (and, but, yet, or, nor, for, so) that links two independent clauses: The optimist thinks that this is the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist knows it. (Robert Oppenheimer) Independent clauses are parts of sentences that would make sense as sentences all by themselves. Dependent clauses are parts of sentences that could not be sentences by themselves.) However, do not use a comma before a coordinator that links two words or phrases: Jack and Diane sang and danced all night. Use a comma between words, phrases, or clauses that appear in a series including before the last item in the series: The widgets get injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected, and selected. The example also demonstrates parallel construction: The widgets get injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected, and selected. Use parallel constructions in lists and bullet points. Use commas and semi-colons between words, phrases, or clauses that appear in a series when parts of a series include multiple items: We need to pack the gizmos, widgets, and tools; store the boxes, pallets, and tarps; and throw away the trash. Use a comma after a phrase or clause that precedes the subject of a sentence (or the verb in a command): If at first you don't succeed, failure may be your style. (Quentin Crisp) To meet the deadline, ship the package by 2:00 pm today. Use a pair of commas to set off words, phrases, or clauses that interrupt a sentence to provide extra information: We need the gizmos, which are stored in the trailer, for the order tomorrow. (In other words, we need gizmos and I’m just letting you know they’re out back in the trailer in case you didn’t know where you can find some. ) But don't use commas to set off information that directly affects the essential meaning of the sentence: We need the gizmos that are stored in the trailer for the order tomorrow. (In other words, we need those gizmos in the trailer specifically and not any other gizmos stored anywhere else. Gizmos may be everywhere. We only want the ones from the trailer.) The previous examples also demonstrate restrictive and non-restrictive clauses Restrictive: We need the gizmos that are stored in the trailer for the order tomorrow. Non-restrictive: We need the gizmos, which are stored in the trailer, for the order tomorrow. Use semi-colons to separate two complete (independent) clauses: We need the gizmos today; we need the widgets by Friday. Make sure to check your writing for errors and don’t rely completely on spell check or grammar check.