Punctuation Matters

Whenever I solicit grammar questions from an audience, many of the questions relate to punctuation. Punctuation is a crucial part of good writing. It tells us where to stop, where to pause, and it marks off the exact words someone is saying. But it does so much more than that. Judicious and correct use of…


Why Improve Workplace Writing Skills

It’s easy to assume that smart, educated people know how to write well. But that assumption isn’t always correct. I was reminded of this recently when I met with a client who was interested in improving the email writing skills of her employees, all of whom are university educated professionals. In order for me to…


What is Business Writing?

Maybe an even better question to ask is: What isn’t business writing? It isn’t what you may have learned in school: that sentences must paint pictures using many descriptive adjectives. It isn’t the essay you wrote in university where, in order to meet the word count, you “padded” it with unnecessary words or quotes. It…


A Better Business Writing Guide for Performance Reviews

Conducting a performance review isn’t easy. However, when I saw the following question posed in The HR Capitalist: “Will Algorithms Ultimately Write Coaching Scripts for Managers?” the concept of automated people management seemed preposterous. Yet, computer analysis measuring employee productivity is already in use in some sectors, as Steve Boese notes in his blog post, “Maybe…

A word cloud of computer security related tags and terms

How Plain Language Can Improve Cybersecurity

The recent cyber attack on Twitter, Paypal, Netflix, the New York Times and other major businesses — all on the same day — demonstrated how incredibly vulnerable we are to cyber exploitation. These are businesses that I tend to think of as very secure. Of course, what online business is totally secure, really? I learned this…

A Venn diagram that shows the intersection of customers, staff and shareholders

Why You Need Plain Language

Harvard Business School professor Robert Simons asks: “How Do Your Core Values Prioritize Shareholders, Employees, And Customers? Along with identifying a primary customer, you must also define your core values in a way that ranks the priority of shareholders, employees, and customers. Value statements that are lists of aspirational behaviors aren’t good enough. Real core…

word arrangement used to illustrate plain language

Using Plain Language Is The Least You Can Do: Modern Best Practice

I was asked recently, “Isn’t plain language just best practice?” My response was, “Yes, it is.” Plain language principles have represented best practice in communication since Aristotle taught rhetoric. Aristotle presented rhetoric as a practical tool for persuading a general audience, in order to resolve practical issues. Today, we speak about Aristotle’s rhetoric and plain language…

Man in suit jacket focused on hands, one hand is giving the thumbs up and the other is giving the thumbs down. Used to represent mixed messages.

Communicate Effectively: Avoid Mixed Messages

Earlier this summer I found myself sitting anxiously in stopped traffic on a highway next to an empty HOV lane, newly regulated for Pan Am Games traffic. It made me think about the problem initially created by the “mixed messages” of the Pan Am Games organizers. On the one hand, Torontonians were repeatedly told how…

A post it note with the words "Keep it Simple". To illustrate the advice in the blog post about writing for business.

Writing for Business: 5 Tips to Keep it Simple

I wasn’t surprised when I read an article recently saying that our culture is going through a “forgiveness moment.” Lately, it seems every time I hear the news there is someone — a politician, a media figure, a religious leader —apologizing for something. For instance, there was former CBC journalist Evan Solomon apologizing for using…