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One space, not two spaces, after a period. Period.

A sign showing an exclamation point.For many years, writers were taught to include two spaces after periods and certain other punctuation marks, such as colons. There was good reason for this at the time: Typewriters produced a typeface that made it aesthetically unpleasant to have only one space separating sentences.

However, those days are long gone. The fonts computers produce have made the two-space method unnecessary. Today, every major style manual (including the Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook) makes it clear that one space is proper.

Does it matter if you still use two? Actually, yes. Anytime we see two spaces in an article that was written in recent years, we immediately think “amateur hour.” And that’s the last thing you want your reader to think about you.

Persuasive Writing: when “more” is “less”

Most of the time, persuasive writing is used in competitive situations.

It is the resume, when you compete with others to get the job. It is the grant proposal, when you compete with others to get funding. It is any time you compete with peers to get donors, votes and even “your way.”

More is less in persuasive writing when you use words that say the same thing. For example, “Our approach is economical, efficient and frugal, freeing up manpower, materials and money for other uses.”

It is obvious to the reader that your plan will save money. In fact, it is obvious over and over and over. The reader tunes out when statements include unnecessary words; and worn out by the repetition, gives little attention to the rest of your statements.

Imagine the sentence above being followed by “Think what we could do with the resources this method saves our organization.” When your sentences repeat the message, you suggest to the reader that you (in a resume) or your plan has no other good qualities; that much of the document is really filler.

In conclusion, when you write  a resume, proposal or sales document, don’t use unnecessary adjectives and redundant sentences. Let each unique point you make stand out.

Now, that’s an embarrassing typo: AP Stylebook edition

If you’re ever uncertain about how to spell a word, it’s always worth the time to look it up. As we mentioned in this earlier post, it takes only seconds to look up a word on an online dictionary.

By the same token, if you write quite a bit, it’s definitely worth the $15 to get online access to the AP Stylebook, the best go-to guide for proper usage. It’s a phenomenal resource you can check out here.

However, a visit to the site’s Frequently Asked Questions page reminds you that anyone can make a mistake. The FAQ’s second item reads:

Is the 2008 Associated Press Stylebook available? No, it has sold out and is not going to be reprint. The ISBN number is 978-0-917360-52-7

The obvious goof here is that “reprint” should be “reprinted.” But if we’re going to be picky (and you just know we are), the answer also is missing a period at the end.

And that’s not simply a “style” consideration, ironic as that would be. All of the other answers in the FAQ (including another that ends in a series of numbers) end with a period.

Again, we strongly recommend a subscription to the AP Stylebook to anyone who writes professionally on a regular basis (rest assured, we don’t receive a commission or anything else from the Associated Press).

But we have given the AP a heads-up about the FAQ goof, and we’re curious to see how quickly it gets fixed.

Can you find all 14 writing mistakes?

Here are some basic mistakes that do not get flagged by a spell checker. Can you spot all the errors?

I consider people talking loudly on there cell phones in public to be offense of. They should of taken care of business at home or at there work sight. Do they have more rite to be herd in public then others?

I mite just go up to a loud cell talker and say, “Are thoughts could be as important as yours. We cant here them because your so loud. You deserve an Olympic mettle for rudeness!”

There are 14 words used mistakenly in context. Did you find this type of writing to be a turnoff? One friend told us, “When I read something like this, I die a little inside.”

As we’ve said before: you must review and edit everything you write.

Winning grant proposals must be error-free

A winning grant proposal is error-free

A winning grant proposal is error-free.

In the last post, we talked about how clear and grammatically-correct writing alone is not enough to get your proposal funded. On the other hand, a proposal that meets funding criteria and is submitted by a worthy organization will not be funded if it contains writing and grammatical errors.

Some proposal reviewers (judges) score sections filled with grammatical and typographical errors in the lowest range of points available for the section. Even I, a copyeditor and grammarian, am amazed at the large number of points often deducted.

These are the explanations I have been given:

“A sloppy proposal indicates that the organization would operate a sloppy project.”

“They must have put this proposal together overnight, since they clearly didn’t have it proofread.”

“I don’t think these people can be very bright.”

“The proposal was too hard to read – the sentences went on forever and there were no commas to indicate pauses or necessary separations between words.” (more…)

The Best Writing Tip Ever: Put your words in the right order

When one guys wearing makeup and the other ones wearing a mask, its rather important to know whos who.

When one guy's wearing a mask and the other one's wearing a wig and makeup, it's rather important to know who's who.

For our latest installment of the Best Writing Tip Ever series, let’s touch on a subject that seems like a no-brainer, but it’s a mistake that can appear in everything from a text message to, let’s say, an article in the Los Angeles Times.

Case in point: today’s Times review of the psychological thriller Orphan. Glenn Whipp’s brief article reads just fine until this sentence:

The film does boast fine, slumming performances from Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard, playing John and Kate, the couple coping with Esther’s alarming antics.

True, Whipp writes elsewhere that Orphan boasts a surprising twist, but we’re pretty sure the twist isn’t that Vera plays John and Peter plays Kate.

Granted, Whipp didn’t use the word respectively in his sentence to indicate “in the order given,” but switching the order mid-sentence still makes for confusing reading.

And if the error wasn’t clear because of the genders, we’d be left thinking the actors played the wrong roles.

For example: either of the two people who never saw The Dark Knight certainly would get the wrong idea if one wrote “Christian Bale and Heath Ledger provide dynamic performances as the Joker and Batman.”

See more entries in the Best Writing Tip Ever series by clicking here.

Trailer conventions that have to go? Cool, but bad grammar has to go first.

FilmHype.Net ripped on the Old Dogs trailer, leaving it to us to rip on this awful, painfully Photoshopped poster.

FilmHype.Net ripped on the "Old Dogs" trailer, leaving it to us to rip on this awful, painfully Photoshopped poster.

I care about good writing, but we don’t expect everyone to be perfect all of the time. Misspellings and typos happen.

However, it’s impossible to stress too highly how important it is to make a good impression right up front in anything you write. If you have an important 10-page document, I’d love for you to carefully proofread all 10 pages.

But at the very least, make sure the first few pages are golden. If nothing else, the first page must be pristine.

Case in point: I’d never before heard of FilmHype.Net, but there’s a link to an article on the site today at the Internet Movie Database. As film buffs, we check out IMDb all the time. And the link sounded interesting: “Movie Trailer Conventions That Have To Go.”

I was intrigued. So I clicked on the link and read the article’s introduction. Here’s the first paragraph (the bold emphasis is mine):

In an industry filled with sequels, prequels, remakes, and sell outs, it’s sometimes difficult to find something truely noteworthy within the realm of cinema. But even worse than the films themsleves are the trailers that promote them; born from a world lacking any originality and at the hands of a single editor whose name is presumably Satan.

And suddenly I wasn’t very interested in the article anymore (you can find it here).

I realized that the writer might make some pretty good points in the article, but an opening paragraph that has at least two grammatical mistakes any high-schooler should understand (plus a third that’s admittedly a little nitpicky) makes me tune out immediately. (more…)

Grammar Girl (referencing AP Style) takes on “To tweet or to Twitter”

This is really little more than a link to a recent post by Grammar Girl, a/k/a Mignon Fogarty, who does some fun writing about all things grammar at her site.

As Ms. Fogarty notes, the Associated Press recently released its 2009 AP Stylebook, which many organizations use to determine their default “style” for word usage. It’s an invaluable reference that we at We Write For You use as our style guide as well.

In her post, she points out that the AP ultimately decided that you can say a Twitter user is Twittering or tweeting, whichever verb you prefer. Note that “tweet” and “tweeting” are not capitalized, while “Twittering” is. There’s some more interesting stuff here, so we highly recommend you check out the post here.

P.S. If you Twitter or tweet, be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can find us here, and you can check out Grammar Girl right here.

Before you write your resume (and especially before you write your cover letter)…

If you read our previous post on resumes, we pointed out how important it is to tailor your resume for the particular position you’ve targeted. (And if you missed that one, read it here right now.)

Before you sit down to write that tailored resume, whether revising or starting from scratch, you need to refer to the one critical document that will determine what information to include or omit:

The list of job qualifications.

That’s right, the template for your resume should not be a list of stuff you’ve done in the past. The template should be what qualities the employer is looking for regarding this particular job. And this will be even more important in the cover letter.

Think about it this way: you’re looking for the perfect mate on an online dating site. Let’s say you’re looking for a woman, and you’ve come across one you believe would make the perfect partner. She lists all of her turn-ons, and they include: outdoor activities, dancing, kittens and romantic dinners.

So you decide to give her a “wink” online to gauge her interest. But the information in your profile notes that you spend all of your time playing video games, you hate to dance, you’ve only had dogs as pets and you only eat Hot Pockets.

Think there’s any chance of getting a date? (more…)

Wolverine would like to compliment you on your use of the term “complement”

Here’s a quick writing tip along the lines of last week’s discreet/discrete posting. We often see compliment and complement switched up, most recently in a review of the new X-Men Origins: Wolverine video game on the IGN website. (Okay, so the review was published April 30. We’re behind in our reading.)

We note this not only to remind you that even great sites such as IGN can occasionally get confused about grammar, but as a trick to include a photo of Wolverine in this post. (Hey, you try to come up with a cool image that represents homophone confusion.)

We’d like to believe everyone knows what a compliment is: to say something nice to someone. Compliment can be a noun or verb. Here’s a fine way to compliment Wolverine:

“Gee, Wolverine, what wonderfully shiny claws you have. To you get them professionally polished?”

Meanwhile, complement, in this usage, is something that, when added to another quality, makes something complete or whole:

“Wolverine, your unbridled aggression is the perfect complement to Cyclops’ cool reserve on the X-Men team.”

Complement can also mean the quantity or number needed to make something whole: “The addition of Wolverine gave the X-Men a full complement of mutant superheroes.”

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