Sunday, August 26, 2012

Great Post of Writers on Writing

I often recommend that aspiring writers read reflections on writing by successful ones. A good way to get a taste of what I mean is to read these 22 quotes from 22 celebrated authors posted at The Chive. They're all good, notably the funniest, not surprisingly, from Mark Twain; one that I have always maintained about the need to read and write from Stephen King; a reminder about the value of rewriting by Ernest Hemingway's reminder that even great writers rewrite; and G.K. Chesterton's advice on how to handle criticism.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Grammar Cop Throws the Book at Job Prospects

An article by iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens in The Harvard Business Review assures us that we need good grammar if we are to work for him. Mr. Wiens requires job applicants to take a grammar test, which he calls his "litmus test" in deciding whether to hire them. And he makes a good argument for us to believe that his standards are shared by many hiring managers when he writes:
Grammar signifies more than just a person's ability to remember high school English. I've found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing—like stocking shelves or labeling parts. ... I hire people who care about those details. Applicants who don't think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren't important.

Many practical tips on grammar and usage appear in The Art of On-the-Job Writing.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Good Grammar Remains a Hot Issue

For the past 28 years, I have heard executives and managers tell me how they cringe when their employees abuse Standard English rules. Needless to say, those complaints increased as email grew in popularity and have become even louder as smartphones allowed us  to text on the run. The Wall Street Journal reminds us of this common managerial grievance in a recent article.

Some organizations go so far as screening all staff emails to clients before approving their release. Others authorize only a select few employees to write directly to clients. Still others that do not have such a luxury of limiting external communication to a chosen few applies the sensible approach of requiring all important documents to undergo peer review to detect overlooked errors in grammar, diction, punctuation, and capitalization.

Of the many courses that I offer to companies, my Business Grammar workshop has generated the most interest recently. In fact, the American Management Association asked me last year to design its first AMA's Business Grammar Workshop and this year to adapt it as a live online version.

Unquestionably, writers' attention to grammar reflects their attention to detail, so grammar still does matter.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Punctuation Pointers, Part 4: Capitalize after a Colon?

You will not find unanimous opinion on whether to capitalize the first word of an independent clause following a colon. An excellent online resource, which I've recommended on this blog before, The Guide to Grammar and Writing by Capital Community College, Hartford, Connecticut, suggests that you should capitalize in certain cases, yet this contradictory example sentence appears on its explanation:
There is only one thing left to do now: confess while you still have time.
But if you read the rest of the post, you'll get a sensible explanation of its use. By the way, I do capitalize independent clauses following colons and do not capitalize dependent clauses following colons. Examples:

Remember this: You must work hard to achieve your goals.
Remember to bring the following items: ID card, enrollment confirmation, and flash drive.