How to find your voice: look under your nose

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Top 10 posts 1. What bugs you about writing?

The main purpose of this blog and my upcoming book, Write Like You Talk–Only Better, is to help people who are having a hard time keeping up with the quantity and quality of writing they’re expected to do at work.

So I asked people to tell me what’s keeping them up at night, what makes them roll their eyes or which rock keeps rolling back down their hill.

The comments, which I also received by phone, email and Linkedin groups, inspired many of my posts. I’ll continue to respond, so keep your comments rolling in.

Or if you enjoy writing, please share your wisdom and tips.

And Happy New Year.

Top 10: 9. The war on bad grammar

For the sake of world peace and all that’s good about the holiday season, let’s focus on the common mistakes that impair our ability to communicate and declare a truce on bickering over the fine points of grammar.

So I’m repeating my three-part series aimed at the biggest, ugliest targets, doing my best to avoid flash backs of catatonic English teachers.

The liveliest comments were on my IABC and Melcrum Linkedin groups, where fellow communicators get quite feisty about language.

9. The war on bad grammar: possessives, contractions and words that sound similar

And here are the links for the companion posts on me, myself and I as well as that, which and who and snd more pronoun insanity.

Top 10 posts for 2009: balance grammar rules and writing flow

Now that I’ve been blogging for a year, it’s time to figure out what attracts readers and to share some of the posts you might have missed.

I’ve analysed my stats and come up with my top-ten posts, which I’ll feature throughout the holiday season. No rest for the wicked blogger, but at least an easier pace.

I’m leading off the series with the 10th most viewed, Too many grammar rules dam the writing flow, about the need to balance rules that support clear writing with the natural flow of conversation.

Written in July, this was one of my first posts to attract significant page views outside my personal sphere. What’s more, I actually received comments from people I did not know, a major milestone.

Mind your Ps and Qs, not your P’s and Q’s

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He/she/it/they drives/drive me crazy: my last grammar target

I’ve left he/she/it/they to the last of my three-pronged attack on bad grammar because it’s more difficult.

Even so, I have come up with an easy tip: Use “they” when you’re referring to a singular subject if you are referring to a general subject, such as the team, the client or the user, but only if it’s easier for the reader to understand and doesn’t offend any grammar-stickler target readers and especially if it lets you avoid being sexist.

Okay, so it’s not as brief as my earlier tips on contractions and sound-alikes and me, myself and I and that, who, which. But this is trickier. Let me explain.

Most people are fine with this example: “The team won the award because they are so good at customer service.” Although “team” is singular, they know that the term refers to more than one person.

However, this may not be the best solution if you are writing for people who care about grammar. For them, you’re wise to turn “team” into a plural, as in “The team members won because they… ” You could refer to the team as “it” but that would be dehumanizing.

Turning a singular into a plural also lets you side step the awkward “he or she.”

Sadly, sometimes you can’t simply tack on a word like “members” to make the subject plural. For example, “The client sent their best regards.” Let’s assume the client refers to a company, not an individual. “Their” works. Besides, unless I was referring to a specific individual, “sent his (or her) best regards,” would be sexist.

A year ago, I would have balked at writing “the client sends their best regards.” After years of resistance and too many awkward “he or she”s, I’ve slacked off. I was relieved to see in the comments on the recent Copyblogger grammar post that many people agree it’s time to move on.

Like society, language evolves. As long the changes don’t impair our ability to understand each other, it’s all good. Don’t you agree?

The war on bad grammar: the next big targets

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