My very favorite productivity hack

I used to print my mailing and filing labels using Microsoft® Word’s label templates (a torturous, curse-producing process), but I always worried about wasting the other 32 labels on the sheet when all I needed was one label. The label manufacturer always warned against running the labels through the printer a second time, but really?… Continue Reading

A tale of two (actually three) English grammar texts

I had an interesting conversation with my friend Michael Franklin at the AMWA (American Medical Writers Association) conference in Columbus last month. He told me of a must-read grammar text, Understanding English Grammar by Martha Kolln and Robert Funk, that he had studied in graduate school. I nearly fainted when I saw the price at… Continue Reading

Why bother with a style guide?

If you write or edit more than one document a day or work with other writers and editors, you need a style guide to provide guidance on style (language conventions with respect to spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and typographic arrangement and display). You can create a style guide at the personal, department, or corporate level (depending… Continue Reading

Kids and their amazing grasp of subtle language cues

Just had the sweetest discussion with my first-born grandchild: “Grandma, can you buy me this candy bar?” “Gracie, it’s full of sugar. Sugar rots your teeth and will make your nose drop off.” “I’m OK with that, Grandma.” OMG―she understands hyperbole and irony at age 9! (Could that be genetic?)   Continue Reading

Grammar lesson: When should you use the word “that”?

One of my loyal readers sent me a question about the use of the word “that”; she said, “I am used to seeing the word ‘that ’ in all instances shown below” and provided four examples. Here’s one: COPAS guidelines require that the initial billing of joint account charges occurs within a 24-month period. Her… Continue Reading

How do I know what I know?

Don’t worry. I’m not going all metaphysical on you. But I’ve recently begun to question one of my long-held beliefs about writing, and I feel conflicted. Here’s how it came about: In my last newsletter, I wrote a review of Marcia Riefer Johnston’s new book Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs. I… Continue Reading

Is Marcia Riefer Johnston stalking you, too?

Last September, I had an eerie experience after posting a comment on an STC (Society for Technical Communication) blog― my comment appeared with Marcia Riefer Johnston’s name on it (Who is SHE? I wondered). We finally straightened it out, and that started a random, lovely, productive relationship with a fellow STC member and now, a… Continue Reading