Test Your Writing Acumen
How well do you know your phrases? A phrase is a group of words that lacks a subject, a predicate, or both, and does not express a complete thought. In a sentence, a phrase can serve one of several functions, acting as a noun, a verb, or a modifier, for example. Types of phrases include absolute, appositive, introductory, noun, prepositional, verb, and verbal (gerund, infinitive, or participial). Here’s a little quiz to see if you can recognize the types of phrases shown in bold in the sentences below.
- We posted the information above the coffeemaker, where we knew everyone would see it.
- The old, pitted parking lot was a public eyesore as well as a dangerous place.
- We found him in the archives, poring through old company files.
- To provide the best service is our goal.
- Suzanne, our new HR manager, led the training session.
- The project has been shelved in light of the new safety concerns.
You can find the answers at the end of this newsletter, along with more detailed descriptions of the various phrases used. (Also check page 367 in the index of Write for Business, 2nd ed., to locate more information.)
The Traits of Writing: Correctness
While quality content is, of course, paramount in your writing, correctness is also important. Careless writing errors can imply careless business practices. So before sending off any written materials, make sure they are correct in every way. Proofread, proofread, proofread—and then have someone else proofread as well.
Check the following areas:
- Punctuation: Use punctuation marks correctly to clarify your ideas. Compare the meanings of these two sentences:
My hobbies are cooking, pets, and gardening.
My hobbies are cooking pets and gardening.
- Mechanics: Use capital letters, numbers, and abbreviations correctly to demonstrate attention to detail. For the same reason, always double-check your spelling.
- Usage: Use the correct word, and beware of homophones (words that sound alike but have different spellings and meanings).
Incorrect: Their are many ways to handle this situation.
Correct: There are many ways to handle this situation.
- Grammar—Use standard grammar in all business writing.
You can find more information about words beginning on page 51 in Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating in the Workplace.
How do you know you’ve achieved your training objectives? After a training session, ask participants to write about their feelings concerning the session. Do they believe it was worth the time and energy? Did they learn something new or increase their efficiency? What worked and what didn’t? Ask them for future training suggestions. With this kind of feedback, you can plan more efficiently.
That Little Extra
This month we discussed the importance of correct writing. Correctness is especially important for a business plan. The most clever, innovative idea will never be funded if it is presented in a plan rife with spelling and grammar errors. Potential investors look for careful attention to detail—in the plan . . . and in the writing.