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In the everyday work world, most professionals are on their own when it comes to writing reports, memos, proposals, and other necessary correspondence. The Business Style Handbook is a practical and comprehensive guide that focuses specifically on the writing issues that frequently arise on the job. Insights and feedback from Fortune 500 communications executives provide tips and advice on improving writing style and effectiveness, while more than 1,200 alphabetized entries cover the essentials of style and usage, grammatical concepts, and more.
|Chapter 1: Fortune 500 Survey Results|
|Chapter 2: Why Style Matters|
|Chapter 3: The Case for Standards|
|Chapter 4: Write with Purpose|
|Chapter 5: E-Mail: Before You Hit Send|
|Sources We Like|
|About the Authors|
In today's wired business environment, everyone writes for a living.
Whether you compose letters, proposals, memos, e-mails or reports, you need
to write clearly, concisely and quickly. You must gather information,
synthesize it and put it into readable form--all before the next deadline
And you've got to get it right. In the workplace you can't afford to have a
document full of errors and inconsistencies.
Consider this scenario: It's 5 p.m., and you have to finish proofreading a
proposal your boss will send to a new client tomorrow. The more you look at
it, the more questions you have. Is the symbol for the British pound £ or
GBP? Does the period go inside or outside the parentheses? Does highly
complex need a hyphen? Is it the board of directors meets Thursday or the
board of directors meet Thursday? Is chairman capitalized? Is it Website or
Web site? Is it Euro or euro? Your boss wants to see the final version by 6
p.m. (Is it p.m. or PM?) Where can you find the answers quickly?
Now you can turn to The Business Style Handbook, a stylebook tailored to
people who write on the job. Professional communicators have at their
disposal myriad stylebooks geared to their needs and industries. Most
nonprofessional writers, on the other hand, aren't familiar with these
resources. This book is geared to the person who writes on the job but
doesn't have a background in communications.
The Business Style Handbook answers questions about usage, grammar,
spelling and style in an A-to-Z format that is easy to navigate and written
in plain English. The entries have a business focus. They are culled from
our experience in corporate America as business writers and editors,
various trade resources, business publications, the Internet and
information from an extensive survey we conducted of professional
communicators at the Fortune 500.
While you may be tempted to throw up your hands and say that you are an
engineer, not a writer, that kind of thinking will hold you back. Today the
ability to communicate effectively gives you a competitive advantage. An
in-depth knowledge of your field may get you in the door, but good
communication skills will open many more.
Use a Road Map to Get There
Today everyone must compose and deliver at Internet speed, but most
employees have nowhere to turn with questions about style and usage, so
they just give it their best effort. It's analogous to driving in an
unfamiliar city without a road map. You can manage, but it's unnecessary to
put yourself in that position. Every professional communicator relies on a
stylebook to manage the issues that arise in writing. In an age when
computers put writing skills on display as never before, it makes sense to
borrow such a valuable tool from the professionals.
Language is complex and at times unruly. To write well in today's business
environment, you need to know the basic rules of grammar, punctuation and
style--and then some. That is where The Business Style Handbook can help.
provides specific guidelines for the issues that crop up in business
writing--in a user-friendly format.
Your time is valuable. Getting your ideas across to the reader is your
primary focus. But you still want to get it right. The problem is you can't
afford to devote much time to finding out whether to write e.g. or i.e. It
helps if you can look up the answer alphabetically, rather than search
under abbreviations and then search for the Latin abbreviations subentry.
We have written The Business Style Handbook in language you can understand.
It purposefully veers away from terms like predicate nominative, appositive
and parallelism. You need answers. It's more important to know that too
many There is or It is sentences can sound monotonous than it is to know
expletive constructions are symptomatic of weak transitions. Highly
grammatical language doesn't register with most people, let alone someone
who is under pressure to finish a report. You don't need to get bogged down
in abstraction when your boss is hovering nearby and asking for the report
on mutual funds.
We stick to the essentials. At the risk of being overly focused, we have
limited the A-to-Z entries to the words and questions that frequently arise
in the workplace as well as the issues that interrupt the flow of writing
on the job. For style questions that are open to interpretation--whether
access is a verb or Website is one word--we give you enough information to
make an informed decision.
Style is a "mixed bag of absolute rules, general conventions and individual
options," according to Thomas S. Kane, author of The Oxford Essential Guide
to Writing. Even the best writers need to refresh their memories
Insight from the Fortune 500
In deciding how to focus The Business Style Handbook, we conducted a survey
of corporate communications professionals at 50 Fortune 500 companies.
Whether you are a department head or a telecommuter, it's valuable to know
how corporate America's writers approach writing.
The 33-question survey asked respondents a range of questions about style
and usage at their organizations as well as their own preferences for
writing. The results of that survey, spelled out in Chapter 1, provide an
overview of the state of writing at some of the world's leading
corporations. The findings confirm that guidance is in short supply for
most employees who write on the job--even though every professional
relies on one stylebook or more to write.
Say It "Simply, Pointedly and Quickly"
Chapters 2 through 5 cover other aspects of writing on the job. This
includes a discussion of why style matters, recommendations for writing
more effectively and suggestions for writing e-mail and using e-mail
systems to maximum advantage.
Walter Kirn, an author and the literary editor of GQ magazine, wrote, "...
the American genius for language lies in understatement, in saying things
simply, pointedly and quickly, and in making new and clean and swift what
otherwise might be ponderous, round and slow." These chapters are designed
to help writers approximate that standard.
Go with the Flow
Language is constantly changing--nowadays at an accelerated pace and thanks
in part to the influence of technology. Every day we add new words to the
business lexicon and abandon old ones. Language also changes in subtle
ways. One day putting a preposition at the end of the sentence is wrong,
and the next day it is acceptable.
Geoffrey Nunberg, a chairman on the Usage Panel of the third edition of The
American Heritage Dictionary, said: "Usage doctrines must change with the
times, of course. The fundamental linguistic virtues--order, clarity and
conciseness--are unassailable, yet they must be constantly reinterpreted
against an evolving social background."
While grammarians and language pundits can afford to deliberate on changes
in usage principles, people who write on the job cannot. Employees need to
write in the language of the marketplace, which means using new words and
using existing words in new ways. The trick is to do this without
compromising writing standards.
"Countless careers rise or fall on the ability or the inability of
employees to state a set of facts, summarize a meeting or present an idea
coherently," said William Zinsser in the book On Writing Well. We agree.
Communication skills are a primary consideration when hiring and promoting
people at most major corporations.
We provide direction about new words and usage to help you strike a balance
between the grammar lessons you learned in the past and the abandonment of
standards prevalent in so much business writing. Our aim is to make writing
easier and the end products--whether they are letters, reports, e-mails,
specifications, brochures, proposals or annual reports--stronger.
We hope our stylebook will become a well-worn resource that earns a place
by your side whenever you turn on the computer to write.
Posted December 28, 2002
This book may be the handiest and clearest book of tips on basic business writing I've read in a long time. The book's tips on writing clearly and for the reader of the office memo or e-mail are direct, short and to the point. I recommend it highly. It doesn't waste words but it doesn't omit a lot of topics, either. For example, a memo writer is reminded to "write as you speak--if you speak clearly." Thousands, no, millions, of words have been devoted to this topic. This one sentence sums it up nicely. The book's users are advised not to waste people's time by writing poorly. Some may quibble with minor points in the book. For example, it advises readers not to capitalize the "The" in newspaper names because some papers use a "the" and some don't. To my way of thinking (and training), that's a question easily resolved by finding out what the newspaper uses. But this is a tiny point. I much prefer the authors' valuable and wide-ranging bits of information: khan: lowercase this term, which is a title for a ruler, an official or an important person in India and some central Asian countries. c.o.d.: Use c.o.d. with periods for all references. It stands for cash on delivery. Without periods, it could be confused with the word cod, as in fish. saccharin/saccharine: Often misspelled. The first is a sugar substitute; the second means overly sweet. And so on, touching on topics from A to Z, as billed.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 16, 2002
I spend much of my day communicating with customers through formal correspondence and e-mail, and this book has become my most-used reference. In addition to being clearly presented and easy to use, it provides authoritative guidance on the effective use of language and the value thereof, as well as practical advice and direction on many of the often-subtle points of English-language custom (presented in a comprehensive A to Z section).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 6, 2002
This user-friendly handbook offers a wealth of facts and information on topics ranging from common punctuation errors to the basic terms and vocabulary of web technology, and much, much more. An excellent tool for business writers, students and administrative assistants. Every office should have a copy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 31, 2002
This is a great resource. I write e-mails and documents for customers all day and this book helps me do it faster and better, which means it makes my life easier. I also picked up some good ideas from the chapter on e-mail. I've found this book so helpful that I gave my assistant a copy for staff appreciation day.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 4, 2002
I wouldn't go to the office without this book! In this day and age of cyberspace it's great to have a book that explains all the language. It's clear and easy to read and I use it to look up all the correct English that I use today. Finally, a book for the office that everyone can understand.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 25, 2002
I work with people every day that have great difficulty writing clear and compelling business letters and email. This book is perfect for me to help them, and is becoming mandatory reading for the repeat offenders. The book is well organized and deals with each of the topic with precision. A must have for everyone's reference shelf.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 15, 2010
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