Tag Archives: email



When train tracks or skis are parallel, one of them doesn’t veer off. They stay the same distance apart. When writing, you want your prose to be parallel as well. When it isn’t, your readers will be jarred by the parts that veer off on their own. Here’s an example:

The most frequent causes of snowmobile accidents are mechanical failure, the driver is careless, and the weather conditions might be dangerous.

It’s easy to rewrite this sentence in parallel form, seeing that all the pieces are of the same grammatical form:

The most frequent causes of snowmobile accidents are mechanical failure, careless drivers, and dangerous weather conditions.

Here’s one more:

Roger is overworked and not paid adequately.

This is very easily fixed:

Roger is overworked and underpaid.

When you proofread what you’ve written, check to see that lists are in parallel form. If something grates on your ear, you’ll know how to fix it.

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A British Mister


A British Mister? A Mister Misting?

Reading a news article today about current British-American relations, I came across a reference to a “British mister.” My first thought was that it referred to some British bloke (as they might say). Then I wondered if it were someone in government who was in charge of taking care of plants in government offices: watering, trimming, fertilizing, and misting them.

Obviously, the writer intended to write “minister,” but because “mister” is a word and software cannot determine context, “mister” prevailed.

Whether it’s fair or not, we are judged by the way we write. If we don’t proofread meticulously, errors will slip through and there’s a good chance we will be determined to be careless people. This can be detrimental in many areas of our lives.

Proofreading doesn’t take long. I’ve written about this before, but if we proofread silently and at our normal reading speed, we will read what we think we wrote, not what we actually wrote. Reading backwards will pick up very few errors: if you wrote the and meant they, you won’t catch it.

The most effective proofreading method is to read out loud—not as in some dramatic oration but just loudly enough that you can hear your words. It’s also important to read more slowly than your normal speed. If you do both, chances are you will write error-free text.


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More on Job Titles


Is this you?

Before I went to Italy, I wrote a blog post on new job titles. After I returned, I found an article in the New York Times by Sam Slaughter, called “Your Job Title is … What?”

Because of the preponderance of startups, people today are inventing their own titles. No more East Coast Regional Managers. Vice Presidents of Customer Relations? Gone! Now business cards are introducing Wizards, Gurus, Ninjas, Story Strategists, Futurists and Brand Ambassadors. You can be a Thought Leader at a morning meeting and morph into a Customer Happiness Manager in the afternoon.

Slaughter also has met Influencers and Trend Strategists, Story Architects and Culture Hackers, not to mention a person who admits she was greatly influenced by Dr. Seuss when she was young and decided her job description was (wait for it) Thing 2.

Loyal Correspondent (my title for him) Jeff W. sent me the following titles he’s come across:

Director of First Impressions (receptionist)

Creator of Opportunities (business development)

Chief Amazement Officer (founder)

Director of Listening (social media monitoring)

Chief Troublemaker (CEO) and generally, any title with Catalyst, to describe someone who unblocks corporate inertia.

Jeff has also seen Dragonslayer, Gatekeeper, Sorceress, Jedi, Ranger, Rebel, Zen Master, Time Lord, Princess, Queen and, yes, Webslinger (Spiderman?). My personal favorite, however, is the Eternal Harbinger of Spring.

Don’t tell me you are still a Vice President of Customer Relations!

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Are You a Grammar Nerd?

The website Grammarly has a list of 10 signs you might be a grammar nerd. My thanks to Brian B., always on the lookout for something up my linguistic alley.

1. You use standard spelling, capitalization, and punctuation when you text.

2. You have appointed yourself as “honorary proofreader” of your friends’ social media posts.

3. You know how and when to use “affect” and “effect.”

4. You feel compelled to correct poorly written public signs. It isn’t vandalism if you’re correcting it, right?

5. The thought of posting a writing error online mortifies you.

6. You have an opinion about the Oxford comma.

7. You follow Grammarly on Facebook and Twitter.

8. You’re a regular contributor to the #grammar hashtag in social media.

9. The sound of a double negative makes you cringe.

10. You mentally edit all the books and magazines you read.


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The Semicolon


After writing about colons last week, I had a few requests for an explanation of semicolons; so here goes.

The semicolon has three uses:

1. It can take the place of a period when it appears between two closely related and complete sentences:

I wish I could go to the club with you; I’m just too tired.

2. When you use these transitional words in a sentence, put a semicolon in front of them and a comma after them:

; however,

; for example,

; thus,

; consequently,

; nevertheless,

; moreover,

; therefore,

; furthermore,

; besides,

; in fact,

I wish I could go to the club with you; however, I’m too tired. (Do not put commas on both sides of the transitional words; if you do that, you’ll be writing a run-on sentence.)

3. When you have a long, complicated sentence, use semicolons between the items to make the sentence easier to read:

If you’re going camping you’ll need wood for the fire; an axe to chop the wood; matches to light it; food for at least two meals; pots and pans to cook it in; and utensils to cook and eat with.

Do you see how semicolons bring order to that sentence? If you used commas in their place, the eye would be flooded with commas and it would be much harder to keep each item straight.

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What Punctuation Can Tell Us


A recent article in the New York Times interested me. It discussed ways people are using punctuation in emails, tweets and texts to convey emotion and messages not expressed in words. Let me know if you agree with the author’s conclusions.


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Before You Forward an Email

images You know you get too many emails every day. Everyone you know gets too many emails. Here are five guidelines to help you be thoughtful and legal about forwarding emails:

1. Before you forward anything, be sure you have removed ALL email addresses of others, both in the address lines and ones that might be in the body of the document. The privacy of others is as important as your own.

2. Forward only the relevant parts of an email. Much of it may be unimportant to those you want to receive it. Don’t make your readers wade through irrelevant information to get to the core information.

3. Take the time to write a personal comment at the beginning of the email. It can be very brief, as in, “I thought you’d want to see this,” but it’s important. Put yourself into the email and not come across just as a forwarding machine.

4. If you suspect the contents might contain a hoax, always check with snopes.com before you forward. You will save yourself a lot of embarrassment. (It’s happened to all of us who were in too much of a hurry to take this one simple step.)

5. If forwarding a message requires sending it to more than one person, if you don’t use BCC: for each person’s address, you may be divulging private information to people they don’t know. If you choose not to use BCC: have no doubt that all who receive your forwarded message will be OK with having everyone else see their email address. Using BCC: also prevents recipients from clicking on Reply All and bothering strangers with unwanted emails.

One more point: if you want to forward an email that was sent to you privately, you must get the original sender’s permission to forward it, to post it on Facebook or on any other form of social media. Emails we write are our private copyrighted property and we must respect the proprietary rights of others.

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