Questions, questions everywhere–I hope they make me think!

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein, physicist, 1879-1955 I have serious doubts about Einstein’s not having special talent, but I do believe the second sentence and try to apply passionate curiosity to all facets of my life. I have been especially thinking about curiosity recently after publishing a 3-page… Continue Reading

Left-branching example of the week

A left-branching sentence is one in which the subject and verb do not appear until the sentence has wandered around for quite some time: “Only offering height modifications in certain areas, explicitly describing what the city wants buildings to look like in [City] Junction and charging non-residential developments a fee to pay for affordable housing… 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

The numbers game

I have frequent requests in my writing classes to explain how to express numbers in technical and business writing. Let me be honest with you: I can’t possibly cover all the variables involved in writing numbers in this brief post. In fact, I could actually shorten this article dramatically if I just said: “Consult your… Continue Reading

Should you use “and” or “but” to start a sentence?

One of my newsletter readers wrote to ask: Hi Bette:  Do you agree with the information below? (I’m from the old school, where I was taught never to begin a sentence with “and” or “but.”) Contrary to what your high school English teacher told you, there’s no reason not to begin a sentence with but… Continue Reading

I don’t like to write…

I always startle my students by announcing that I don’t like to write. I think they probably assume: Surely a writing teacher must just love to write! I do not like to write because writing is hard work, including writing a blog. But like so many other writers, I love to have written. I also… Continue Reading