This Saw Blade Can Do It All! (or: Proofreading Matters When Safety Counts)

This Saw Blade Can Do It All! (or: Proofreading Matters When Safety Counts)

I saw this sign while at a local hardware store waiting for some lumber to be cut. It would be one thing if this sign were scrawled on a piece of cardboard using a felt-tip marker. Then I could excuse the errors as being the result of some harried employee hurriedly writing these safety instructions. However, this sign was professionally printed and hung, and is probably one of many hanging in the different locations of this particular hardware store chain. That in and of itself is sad, that money and effort went into creating this...
Readers Come Before Rules

Readers Come Before Rules

Watching two people argue about serial commas is like watching two people argue about politics: Neither can listen to the other, but neither is necessarily right nor wrong. As a refresher, the serial comma—sometimes called the Oxford comma—is used in a series as in ham, eggs, and toast. It’s the comma after the word “eggs.” Without the serial comma, it looks like ham, eggs and toast. Whether or not it is used depends on the style you’re following. For example, I usually default to AP style, which does not require a serial comma, but...
Focus! 8 Ways to Minimize Distractions so You Can Write Better, Faster

Focus! 8 Ways to Minimize Distractions so You Can Write Better, Faster

To write better and faster, you must avoid distractions and interruptions. Obviously, you’re going to react if the smoke alarm starts squealing loudly. If that happens, get out! But I’m not talking about interruptions that matter. I’m talking about interruptions that don’t. And you can take steps to keep those at bay. Interruptions slow us down and make us stupid Did you know it takes 25 minutes to get back on task after an interruption? That might not sound bad, until you put it into context. Let’s say you’re writing an important...
To Write Better, Read More. Period.

To Write Better, Read More. Period.

Would you read more if you knew it would make you a better, faster writer at work? Because it will. And it’s fun! How reading improves your writing Reading develops your writing skills in multiple ways. It improves your spelling, builds your vocabulary, trains your mind to recognize correct grammar and structure, exposes you to different writing styles, and can help you develop your own voice. What you read is less important than simply reading, but when you read established authors and writers, you’re also learning lessons from...
3 New Rules for Writing Paragraphs in an Online World

3 New Rules for Writing Paragraphs in an Online World

Sometimes it’s not worth re-inventing the wheel, like this week when I was all set to write about paragraphs and then I read this post on the topic. Rather than rehash what Mike Blankenship so eloquently said, I’ll sum it up for you below… In brief, Mike says long paragraphs don’t work in digital. Instead, you need to follow some “new rules”: New Rule #1: Write shorter paragraphs. Not always, mind you, as you’ll see in rule #2, but sometimes. Readers tend to scan what they see on a screen. Shorter paragraphs break up your copy...
Oh, Comma, You Little Trickster You, Leading Us Astray…

Oh, Comma, You Little Trickster You, Leading Us Astray…

Why do people struggle so with commas? It’s seems we either tend to over-do it or under-do it, and using commas correctly eludes us. Maybe that’s because the comma is so easy to use and so easy to leave out. It’s just a little bit of punctuation, lacking the hardness or a period after all, right? What harm can it do to guess? Well, in my opinion, it can do plenty of harm if it a) gets in the way of clarity, b) makes you look dumb, or c) both a and b. So let’s talk about at an easy way to know whether or not you need to use a comma...