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General Business Writing Tips

Related:   Disorganisation    > General Business Writing Tips <   Punctuation errors   Spelling and Grammatical Errors  
General Business Writing Tips

Subject/verb agreement

If the subject of the sentence is singular, so is the verb; if the subject is plural, so is the verb. This rule applies even if other words intervene between the subject and the verb.

Mistake: The job description - a full-time shipper in a variety of smallbusiness settings - are not detailed enough.
Better: The job description - a full-time shipper in a variety of small-business settings - is not detailed enough.

The subject is the job description, not the business settings. Subjects such as everyone, everybody, neither, nobody, and someone should be treated as singular.

Mistake: Everyone has their own idea.
Better: Everyone has his or her own idea. Everyone has an idea. We all have our own ideas.

Sentence fragments

A sentence is a complete thought that must have a subject and a predicate phrase, including a verb. Sentences that lack subjects or predicates are sentence fragments.

Mistake: We are unwilling to take action. While we acknowledge your concerns.
Better: We are unwilling to take action, even though we acknowledge your concerns.

Run-on sentences

Run-on sentences include too much for a single sentence. Breaking one long sentence into several shorter sentences is a quick and easy fix.

Mistake: Mr. Weaver informed us that his Tonka truck was irreparable but that he didn't want to trade it for a similar toy, instead he wanted to get a cash refund so that he could buy his son a different toy which we disagreed with and so refused his suggestion.
Better: Mr. Weaver informed us that his Tonka truck was irreparable. However, he didn't want to trade it for a similar toy, preferring to get a cash refund so that he could buy his son a different toy. We disagreed with Mr. Weaver and refused to comply with his demand.

Dangling modifiers

Modifiers are sentence clauses that modify or affect the subject of the sentence. Modifiers dangle when what they modify is unclear. The results are often quite funny. The following was written by a man describing an ad campaign being considered by his company:

Mistake: Numerous times, I sat in my living room and watched June Cleaver vacuum and dust while wearing a dress, high heels, and pearls.
The clause "while wearing a dress, high heels, and pearls" is meant to modify "June Cleaver." However, it actually modifies the author!
Better: Numerous times, I sat in my living room and watched June Cleaver vacuum and dust while she wore a dress, high heels, and pearls.


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