Business English Quick Tips: salutations

 

Business English Quick Tips

Quick tips to help you write better for business

If you need to write for your job or business in English, these quick tips will help you succeed…

Greetings to salutations!

A salutation is simply the way you address someone at the beginning of a piece of written communication. Let’s look at their main uses. First of all…

Salutations in letters

What you write depends on the relationship you have with the reader. Common sense should prevail here. When you’re writing to someone you know well enough to be on first-name terms, there’s no problem – you start with “Dear Lucy,” followed by a comma.

If you don’t know the person well, it’s safer to use more formal salutations, for example:

Dear Mrs Grant, if you know that she calls herself “Mrs”

Dear Ms Grant, if you don’t know whether she’s married OR want to play it safe.

Where you can run into trouble is when you don’t know the person’s first name, in the heading of the letter.

Ordinarily you would write the heading like this:

Mrs Lucy Grant
Downside Auto Parts Ltd
(full address, etc.)
Dear Mrs Grant, / Dear Lucy,

If you only know her last name, the best way to head the letter is:

For the attention of Mrs Grant:
Downside Auto Parts Ltd
(full address, etc)
Dear Mrs Grant,

And if you don’t know of Mrs Grant’s existence but want to complain about the non-delivery of your van’s new tires, try this:

For the attention of the Customer Services Manager
Downside Auto Parts Ltd
(full address, etc)
Dear Sir or Madam,

The plurals of these, by the way, are “Messrs” (two or more men) with the salutation “Dear Sirs,” and “Mesdames” (more than two women, both heading and salutation), and “Dear Sirs or Mesdames,” etc.

Although you never spell out the words “Mistress” (Mrs), “Mister” (Mr) or “Messieurs” (Messrs), with titled people you do not abbreviate the titles, ranks, etc. Some examples:

Sir Robert Bloggs
Chairman
Downside Industries PLC
(full address, etc)
Dear Sir Robert,

Air Commodore Robert Bloggs
RAF Downside
(full address, etc)
Dear Air Commodore Bloggs,

The Reverend Robert Bloggs
Downside Vicarage
(full address, etc)
Dear Reverend Bloggs

For details on how to get headings and salutations right for various different VIPs in the UK, this source is very helpful: http://www.debretts.com/forms-of-address.aspx

For the USA, here is a similar resource: http://www.emilypost.com/forms-of-address/titles/777-official-forms-of-address

Salutations in email

With emails you can usually kick off your shoes and relax. Because it’s a relatively new medium it never got weighed down by old-fashioned etiquette and traditions, so it started out with a refreshingly informal approach to communication and to a large extent that has remained.

Although some people still try to creep in with an older-style “Dear Lucy” or even “Dear Mrs Grant” at the start of an email, it looks a bit silly. More common forms of address are:

Hi Mrs Grant / Lucy,
Hello Mrs Grant / Lucy,
Mrs Grant / Lucy,

When in doubt and where possible, be led by the way in which the person addresses you in their email.

Salutations in mass email

This is where I go very cross-eyed with anger at the rudeness of mass emailers who are obviously carried away with their nifty software that supposedly figures out what my name is and automatically whips that into the salutation. This is what I get:

Greetings Ms Maur,
Hello Mr St Maur,
Hi Suzan St,

Or when the software throws its hands up and admits defeat, I’ll get…

Hello SuzanStMaur,

Users of mass email software, get this and get this “good:” there is no such thing as software that will get everyone’s name right through a list of 5,000. Even when you do get the salutation right you don’t fool anyone, so why don’t you just write “Hello Reader,” or even forget the salutation altogether? At least that is honest and less likely to get people’s backs up when they see their name mangled by someone trying to sell them something.

More next week … and if you have any questions about business writing in English please add them here in the comments section; I will try to answer them as well as I can!

Suze

More quick fixes to make your bizwriting brilliant (instant downloads)

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write
The MAMBA Way to make your words sell“…how to think your way to superbly successful sales writing
“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

Business Writing Quick Tips: past tense and past participles

 

Business English Quick Tips

Quick tips to help you write better for business

If you need to write for your job or business in English, these quick tips will help you succeed…

Past tense and past participles

Many people I know, especially in the UK, confuse the past tense of a verb with its past participle. This is especially true in the case of the London and south-east England cultures: they will tend to say “I have spoke about (whatever)” … when they should say / write, “I have spoken about (whatever.)

In spoken speech, and even in written speech, to use the former (grammatically incorrect) version is totally acceptable within the local culture. However given that English is spoken internationally – in other cultures and countries as well as those whose first language is English – for you to use this grammatically wrong form when you’re writing, will just make the other cultures think you’re ignorant. Sad, but true. Some examples:

If I had known the report was going to stir up such a hornet’s nest, I would have wrote it more carefully. (“written”)

It can’t possibly have took you that long to finish your lunchbreak! (“taken”)

Just to confuse the picture further, some past tenses and past participles are identical! Examples of those are:

  • Bet
  • Brought
  • Cost
  • Dealt
  • Heard
  • Lent
  • Paid
  • Sold
  • Stood
  • Taught
  • Understood

However it’s where there are differences that you need to be careful. If you want some more detailed information about past participles and other grammar issues, I find this resource very helpful: http://www.grammar.cl/Notes/Past-Participles.htm

Just for laughs….

Try your hand at these! See if you can decided in which of these sentences the past tenses are incorrectly used:

  1. With this new project, he had bit off more than he could chew
  2. The poor victim of the accident had bled to death
  3. She had been bound up in the red tape of the project for weeks
  4. After the company Christmas lunch several staff members had drank too much
  5. They reckoned they’d ate some poisoned seafood on that business trip to China
  6. He hadn’t heard of this company before
  7. She hadn’t laid down and rested for nearly 24 hours
  8. The news about the redundancies had really shook them
  9. I hadn’t thought it was possible to get so many statistics wrong
  10. He’d woke feeling unwell but still insisted on going to work

And here are the answers … incorrectly used were numbers 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10, because the past participles should have been used instead:

  1. With this new project, he had bitten off more than he could chew
  2. The poor victim of the accident had bled to death
  3. She had been bound up in the red tape of the project for weeks
  4. After the company Christmas lunch several staff members had drunk too much
  5. They reckoned they’d eaten some poisoned seafood on that business trip to China
  6. He hadn’t heard of this company before
  7. She hadn’t lain down and rested for nearly 24 hours
  8. The news about the redundancies had really shaken them
  9. I hadn’t thought it was possible to get so many statistics wrong
  10. He’d woken feeling unwell but still insisted on going to work

More next week … and if you have any questions about business writing in English please add them here in the comments section; I will try to answer them as well as I can!

Suze

More quick fixes to make your bizwriting brilliant (instant downloads)

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write
The MAMBA Way to make your words sell“…how to think your way to superbly successful sales writing
“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

Business Writing Quick Tips: paragraphs

 

Business English Quick Tips

Quick tips to help you write better for business

If you need to write for your job or business in English, these quick tips will help you succeed…

Paragraphs

When you were at school / university you will have been told that a paragraph is a collection of sentences about one sole topic. Judging by the way my son (a business management / economics undergraduate) has been told about writing essays, provided you’re still going on about the same topic you keep to one paragraph even if it’s a good few hundred words long.

Well, that may be OK for academic writing but in business – and especially online – long paragraphs are killers to read. After the first two or three sentences you begin to feel mesmerized and the longer you go on reading without the relief of a little white space, the more your concentration fades and you find yourself losing the point altogether.

There is a trend currently for some text – particularly online text – to go too far in the other direction, with a new paragraph for almost every sentence. This certainly sets out an argument quite clearly, but personally unless it’s pure advertising copy I find it rather irritating and almost rude in a way, because it implies that the reader needs plenty of time to absorb each sentence worth of precious information before being capable of moving on to the next one.

What’s the optimum paragraph length?

Not surprisingly, a common-sense compromise – not too long, and not too short. For online text, I would say no more than 3 to 4 sentences per paragraph, and for print (short documents, brochures, etc.) maybe up to six sentences. If you’re writing a book you can get away with longer paragraphs but bear in mind that many people read books electronically, and regardless of how wonderful the screen quality is of whatever eReader is being used it’s still a bit harder on the eye than paper.

Obviously your paragraphs must focus on one main thought, and as with sentences one paragraph should lead logically into the next. Many writers keep readers “hooked” by creating a new paragraph just when the action is becoming intense, and as long as that makes sense in factual terms that’s quite a good trick. Using link words like “however,” “all the same,” “but” (yes, that is tolerated now even by the grammar police!) “alternatively,” etc. is a good idea to keep readers flowing through.

Now: for something a bit different, try the exercises associated with this article in my “30 Day Business Writing Challenge” – Click here

More next week … and if you have any questions about business writing in English please add them here in the comments section; I will try to answer them as well as I can!

Suze

The REAL secret of writing words that sell successfully…

 

Successful writing for marketing and advertising is about how well you think – not just how well you write

The real secret of successful marketing writing: what you think!Savvy international business and marketing writer, Suzan St Maur, shares her best-kept secret for devising killer messages that sell and persuade powerfully.

And here’s the first part … success is mostly about the way you think, not the way you write!

In her book, “The MAMBA Way To Make Your Words Sell” Suzan St Maur shows you how to use the same 5-step thinking process that has seen her successfully craft winning radio, TV, print and online marketing messages for her wide-ranging clients over many years.

Suzan reveals, “Many people think that a marketing message will work provided that it’s well written. That’s true in a way, but only because if it’s badly written, it won’t work at all. However what’s more to the point is that if the thinking process behind the marketing message is wrong, then the message will also be wrong, no matter how beautifully it’s created and written.”

This book will help anyone faced with the challenge of using the written or spoken word persuasively to align their final objectives with a message that works first time, every time.

And that’s not just for professionals, although they will gain some useful insights from this book, too.

It’s really aimed at the DIY business writer who needs all the help available to make messages sell … whether for a product, a service, some ideas, proposals, or any other marketing/business objective.

Suzan says, “There are many good books on marketing, and many good books on how to write for marketing communications. Unfortunately there was a gaping hole in between the two. This book has been written to bridge the gap and provide the ‘thinking tools’ people need in order to translate marketing strategy into a powerful and persuasive marketing message.”

By using Suzan’s MAMBA approach to devising your message you’ll no longer go off down blind alleys with concepts that are wrong for the job. The best writers get straight to the point because they build on solid foundations – which saves time and money. This book shows you how to do the same.

95 pages. No bullsh*t.

Instant download: just USD $4.50 (GBP £3.00 approx)

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Seriously, MAMBA will transform your marketing writing into first-time successes, every time.
You’ll be delighted with the extra persuasion – and extra sales – you’ll achieve just by sharing this simple secret with me.

Suze 

Business English Quick Tips: over-writing

 

Business English Quick Tips

Quick tips to help you write better for business

If you need to write for your job or business in English, these quick tips will help you succeed…

Over-writing

For many people, writing does not come easily no matter how thorough your thinking or how well prepared you are to make a start. Even though we may speak with great fluency, chattering on at nineteen to the dozen, when faced with the prospect of writing any of it down on a blank screen or unmarked piece of white paper, our brains can freeze solid. It’s that old small step/huge leap US astronaut Neil Armstrong was talking about.

Remember that although it’s easy to talk about what you need to write, there’s something that feels frighteningly final and permanent about recording any of your words. That makes it quite daunting and it is still daunting even for professional writers, although not quite so daunting after many years’ practice.

When we do manage to get writing, we tend to over-complicate our message and wrap it up in all sorts of unnecessary verbiage which, at the end of the day, just gives us something to write down while our brains get to the point. And if this outpouring-style method works for you, that’s OK – provided that you then chop all the garbage out of it and reduce it to something sensible.

Sadly, far too many so-called “corporate style” documents don’t get put through the garbage-chopping process before being published, either because the writers don’t dare cut anything the Chairman has written or because someone high up thinks long-winded, over-worded prose somehow looks more grand and superior.

Especially now, in our online age, this is – well, garbage.

But what exactly is “over-writing?” Here is a tongue-in-cheek example of what I mean:

Piece of writing # 1:

The instrument in question is constructed from lightweight wood the interior of which houses a cylindrical core of carbon. It is necessary to sharpen the surrounding wood at the end of this instrument in order to obtain a conical point and expose the carbon core appropriately. Once this preparatory start-up sequence has been implemented the technology involved enables the object to be held in the dominant hand and, through the application of the correct degree of pressure and suitable movement of hand and arm, the carbon point will convey an image upon the piece of paper placed directly beneath it. At this time it is not a meaningful proposition for the foregoing technique to be demonstrated in a live situation, due to the hardware’s non-permanent redistribution to a remote location.

Piece of writing # 2:

I’m talking about a pencil. It’s made of wood with some carbon inside it. If you sharpen one end, you can write with it. Right now I can’t show you how it works because I’ve mislaid it.

Whereas most people will tend to start with a draft that’s like piece of writing #1 and after much editing work and sweat end up with something closer to #2 (we hope), what many of us professional writers do is conduct some or all of that editing process in our heads. This way the first draft looks more like #2, hence saving time, energy, fingernails, etc. Developing your writing ability so you can do this too is not something you’ll achieve overnight, but with a little help it’s a process you can learn and eventually it will become automatic. It’s a bit like learning to ride a bicycle.

Now: for something a bit different, try the exercises associated with this article in my “30 Day Business Writing Challenge” – Click here

More next week … and if you have any questions about business writing in English please add them here in the comments section; I will try to answer them as well as I can!

Suze

Business English Quick Tips: of or have? And other common goofs

 

Business English Quick Tips

Quick tips to help you write better for business

If you need to write for your job or business in English, these quick tips will help you succeed…

Of, or have? And other common goofs

…Of/have: such commonly spoken and written words, but sadly not interchangeable. If you’re talking about something in conditional terms, you need to say “I could have … would have … should have.” The use of the word “of” instead is incorrect and despite it sounding right when you speak it, should not be used in your writing if you want to be correct.

But that’s not the only common mistake we tend to be guilty of in our business writing … in fact I researched the most common goofs currently in business use recently and came up with more than 1.500 terms … and that’s still growing exponentially. I’ve put all my findings together in an eBook you might like: Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them.”

In the meantime, here is a selection from the book of the most commonly goofed-up terms in business and other writing. I’ve dealt with two truly major areas of confusion – “they’re/their/there” and “your/you’re/yours” separately.) Although you’re unlikely to incur the death penalty for getting these and other common goofs wrong … to do so can and often does make you look unprofessional.

Accept – Except … accept = to agree, to agree to receive … except = apart from, leave out

Allude – Elude … to allude to something is to hint at or refer to … to elude means to escape or bypass … e.g. “he alluded to his recent comments about her but what he meant eludes me…”

Allusion – Illusion … allusion = something hinted at or suggested … illusion = imagined vision or sight

Alot – A lot … A lot needs two words. Or you can allot something, which means to allocate or give out.

Altogether – All Together … altogether = completely, entirely … all together = everyone at once

Brake – Break … brake (n. and v.) = device to stop motion, act of doing so … break = to damage, often beyond repair

Bridal – Bridle … bridal = to do with brides and weddings … bridle = what a horse wears on its head

Chile – Chili – Chilly … Chile = country in South America … Chili = very hot, spicy vegetable and its derivatives … chilly = rather cold

Cite – Sight – Site … cite (v.) = to mention or point out … sight = vision … site (n.) = given area, e.g. construction site

Coarse – Course … coarse = rough … course = conduit for water, etc., also series of lessons or instruction

Could of … Might of … Should of … Would of …etc. WRONG! Of is a preposition and doesn’t belong here. It’s could have … might have … should have … would have … etc. If you want to be picky, it’s called the conditional perfect tense of the verb.

Currant – Current … currant (n.) = berry fruit e.g. blackcurrant, also type of dried grape … current (adj.) = of the moment, up to date

Dependant – Dependent … dependant = noun, e.g. someone who depends on you … dependent = adjective … so in theory you could say “this dependant is dependent on me for …”

Did’nt … Is’nt … Would’nt … Should’nt … etc. WRONG! The apostrophe goes where the missing letter is, so the correct versions are didn’t, isn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t, etc.

Elicit – Illicit … elicit (v.) = to draw out of … illicit = not permitted

Emigration – Immigration … emigration = leaving to become a citizen in another country … immigration = arriving in another country to become a citizen there. Remember that emigration only has one “m.” TIP: remember which is which by the fact that “immigration” goes IN, with an “I,” and emigration goes out, as in EXIT.

Eminent – Imminent … eminent = famous … imminent = due to happen very soon

Fewer – Less … fewer = smaller number of things you can count … less = smaller quantity of something that can’t be counted e.g. water, etc.

Hear – Here … hear = to listen to … here = at this point or place

Irregardless … this word doesn’t exist! It’s either regardless, or irrespective

Lets – Let’s … lets = allows, or (UK) rents out … let’s = contraction of let us

Lose – Loose … lose (v., pronounced “looz”) = to misplace or be deprived of something … loose (adj., pronounced with a soft “s”) = free from attachment. Spellings often cause confusion, but then so does much of the English language…

Palate – Palette – Pallet … palate = the roof of your mouth … palette = type of tray on which artists lay out

Patience – Patients … patience = calm perseverance … patients = people receiving medical treatment

Prostate – Prostrate … prostate = a gland within the male lower urinary tract … prostrate = lying down face down

Right – Rite – Wright – Write … right (v., adj., adv.) = correct, correctly … right (n.) = opposite of left, also something you’re entitled to … rite (n.) = formal act or ceremony … wright (n.) = worker, e.g. wheelwright, playwright … write (v.) = to put words together, the physical act of doing so

Seperate – Separate … separate = WRONG! Correct spelling = separate (v. and adj.)

Stationary – Stationery …stationary (adj.) = at a standstill … stationery (n.) = writing materials, paper, etc.

To – Too – Two … one of Banana Skin Words’ early purchasers asked me why I hadn’t included this one and I said because I thought it was too obvious! Anyway, for reference … to (prep.) = expressing motion or direction … too = also … two = the number 2

Were/wasn’t … many people use the word “were” when they’re just talking about themselves in the past tense. It’s not quite so simple, though:

  • I was at the meeting
  • You were at the meeting
  • S/he was at the meeting
  • They were at the meeting
  • I wasn’t at the meeting
  • You weren’t at the meeting
  • S/he wasn’t at the meeting
  • They weren’t at the meeting

Whose – Who’s … whose = belongs to whom? … who’s = contraction of who is

Now: for something a bit different, try the exercises associated with this article in my “30 Day Business Writing Challenge” – Click here

More next week … and if you have any questions about business writing in English please add them here in the comments section; I will try to answer them as well as I can!

Suze

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