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The Business Style Handbook, Second Edition: An A-to-Z Guide for Effective Writing on the Job

The Business Style Handbook, Second Edition: An A-to-Z Guide for Effective Writing on the Job

by Helen Cunningham, Brenda Greene

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Revised and updated for the newest digital platforms—the classic guide to business writing style and protocols

While retaining all the valuable information that has made The Business Style Handbook a modern classic, the second edition provides new words, phrases and guidance to help you express yourself clearly, confidently and correctly on any


Revised and updated for the newest digital platforms—the classic guide to business writing style and protocols

While retaining all the valuable information that has made The Business Style Handbook a modern classic, the second edition provides new words, phrases and guidance to help you express yourself clearly, confidently and correctly on any digital platform.

New to this edition:

  • Updated A-to-Z section with 250 new entries
  • Best practices for email in a world of portable devices
  • Insights from communications executives at global companies

    Praise for The Business Style Handbook

    “This may be the handiest and clearest book of tips on basic business writing I’ve read in a long time.”
    —Pam Robinson, cofounder, the American Copy Editors Society

    “An excellent primer on how to communicate effectively in a business setting.”
    —Michael Barry, vice president, media relations, Insurance Information Institute

    “This book is especially helpful for people when English is their second language. I recommend it to all my business classes.”
    —Elizabeth Xu, Ph.D., author, executive mentor and leadership class instructor, Stanford University

    “You never want poor writing to get in the way of what you’re saying. . . . This style guide is a valuable resource to help ensure that the quality of your writing differentiates you.”
    —Bart Mosley, principal and chief investment officer, Alprion Capital Management LP

  • Editorial Reviews

    The Globe and Mail - Harvey Schachter
    The second edition of The Business Style Handbook ... offers tips on business writing, including an A-to-Z guide on words that might be confused with others, or whose proper usage may not be clear.
    Bruzzese,Anita - USA Today
    With the explosion of texts, instant messages, social media posts and blogs, they [Cunningham and Greene] say that the writing rules first outlined in their book 10 years ago are more important now than ever. They recently updated their book and re-connected with many of the Fortune 500 employers they interviewed years ago to find that no matter the profession, employees are writing more.

    Product Details

    McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
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    8.50(w) x 5.60(h) x 0.80(d)

    Read an Excerpt

    The Business Style HANDBOOK

    An A-to-Z Guide for Effective Writing on the Job

    By Helen Cunningham, Brenda Greene

    The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

    Copyright © 2013Helen Cunningham and Brenda Greene
    All rights reserved.
    ISBN: 978-0-07-180011-2




    "The Business Style Handbook" is a writing guide for the workplace. It is tailored to the person who writes on the job, which today is everyone who uses a computer and/or mobile device for work.

    Professional writers in corporations have lots of stylebooks, resources and expertise at their disposal. The same is not generally true for the rest of the employee population, which is why we wrote "The Business Style Handbook." Different from most stylebooks, this one has a business focus. It is also written specifically for people in the business world who don't think of themselves as writers, even though they write throughout the day. This revised edition reflects the many changes that have taken place in business and technology over the past decade.

    We tested the market for the first edition of "The Business Style Handbook" by surveying 50 communications executives at the Fortune 500 in 2001. At that time, survey results confirmed our assumption that, although most employees were required to write on the job, the majority had no reference guide for style, punctuation and grammar. The executives we polled saw the need for a business style guide, saying their employees would benefit from a resource that was easy to use, spoke specifically to business issues and made sense of conflicting information about usage and style.

    "The Business Style Handbook" met that need in 2002. Today, it is frequently cited as a recommended book for business writing courses in corporations and at universities. It is on the recommended reading list for Microsoft Education Written Competencies and for the U.S. State Department's Foreign Service Institute's Leadership and Management Training Continuum. It has been cited as a valuable resource in discussions on LinkedIn. It is recommended on business writing websites and on job sites, such as Monster.com, which includes it among its Top Resources for Business Writing. And it has been published in the world's two most populous nations: China (in translation) and India.

    After the book had been in the market for a decade, we decided it was time to write a second edition. Ten years is a long time in the world of business, communications and technology, and this edition both reflects and addresses the new environment.

    We again checked in with Fortune 500 executives to supplement and update our initial research. The new responses reveal some shifts in business writing practices, and also confirm the fact that the basics of good writing on the job don't change dramatically over time.

    A decade on, the words that define good business writing remain the same: clear, concise, accurate, consistent. What's more, brevity, always welcome in the business world, has gotten a big boost thanks to the widespread use of new communications tools, such as smartphones, IM and texting.

    It matters

    Good writing matters in the workplace – and it makes a difference in career advancement. That was the consensus among the Fortune 500 survey respondents in 2012 and in 2001. A comment in the 2012 survey sums it up succinctly: "No matter the level of employee, clearly communicating ideas is critical to the success of initiatives."

    In 2012, a new theme surfaced to underscore the importance of good writing: the role of regulation in business. "We are often communicating things that have policy/legal implications, making the ability to write clearly and concisely all the more important," said Scot Roskelley, Aetna's communications director – mid-America region.

    The topic of generational writing styles yielded a positive finding. Most of the Fortune 500 executives surveyed in 2012 said they did not generally encounter sloppy writing among their younger employees. They attributed this fact to good hiring practices and to training programs and coaching sessions with younger employees to help them understand what constitutes appropriate business communications.

    Guidelines, with caveats

    Many companies have corporate-wide writing guidelines for employees. The ability to post these guidelines on corporate intranets has contributed to the broader distribution of them, which marks an advance for writing over the past decade. In the 2001 survey, only eight companies had company-wide guidelines. For the remainder, guidelines were used primarily in communications, media and marketing departments and in some other areas of the company.

    The ability to make guidelines easily available to all employees online is an example of technology advancing the cause. One survey respondent noted that her company's guidelines are posted on the internal employee website and occasionally highlighted in a weekly push email. Aflac's Glenn Wells explained his company's approach, which is even more extensive given the need to maintain consistency in the branding of corporate publications: "We provide online references and guidelines for style and for formatting manuals, letters, brochures and training materials," and "We also conduct classes on writing for new employees."

    Some companies have multiple guidelines depending on the area of the company. "Corporate writing is spread over a few different functional areas that write for varying audiences that require different writing styles," said Owens & Minor's Duriechee Friend, a director of communications. "Hence, one set of guidelines would not serve us well." Another executive said her company has no corporate-wide guidelines, although she has created an in-house stylebook that has limited distribution.

    Globalization creates another issue. Franklin Templeton's Cynthia Hanson said, "We have a U.S. editorial style guide but not an equivalent for our many overseas offices."

    The extensiveness of guidelines varies from industry to industry. While pharmaceutical companies tend to have voluminous guidelines, manufacturing companies may be more minimalist.

    In 2012, the major difference in the discussion of guidelines is the increase in writing platforms and tools. People regularly write content for print and online vehicles, and they are writing on computers (using word processing, email and IM), smartphones and netbooks. This trend has created the need to define where standards are applied and, in some cases, to develop new standards.

    The content explosion

    The proliferation of writing outlets has raised the question of where to apply style standards.

    When queried on this point in 2012, the executives surveyed indicated that formal corporate content, especially material for external audiences, generally adheres to standards. Corporate publications, press releases, marketing materials and the corporate website topped the list.

    "Formal communication on behalf of the company goes through a review process where style standards are applied," said Jeff Cole, director of marketing communication, Dana Holding Corp. A similar point was made by another respondent. "If it is an official publication or 'voice' of the company, we apply standards," he said. "Email would not fall under this standard unless we were communicating with certain individuals (media, for example) outside the company."

    "Executive" communications, both internal and external, are also on the list of materials to which standards are applied, including messages from the CEO and other senior executives, annual reports and personnel announcements.

    Today, most corporate content is distributed in print and/or digital formats, a reality that does not seem to be a major factor in deciding when to use standards, according to the 2012 survey results. "Much of our content is used in both media," explained Afl

    Excerpted from The Business Style HANDBOOK by Helen Cunningham, Brenda Greene. Copyright © 2013 by Helen Cunningham and Brenda Greene. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

    What People are Saying About This

    Luke Michel
    Trust me, this straightforward, compact book will keep you out of a lot of trouble. It includes several chapters on overall style, but its true value lies in the A-Z listing of common terms and usage rules…. Notice the word “business” in the book's title. Unlike style guides that are written from a journalism perspective… The Business Style Handbook stays focused on business communication…. If I don't find the answer here, I move on to more extensive manuals. But I usually find it here quickly. The book is well indexed and includes a bibliography and list of favorite sources. - Luke Michel, content strategist, PixelMEDIA

    Meet the Author

    McGraw-Hill authors represent the leading experts in their fields and are dedicated to improving the lives, careers, and interests of readers worldwide

    McGraw-Hill authors represent the leading experts in their fields and are dedicated to improving the lives, careers, and interests of readers worldwide

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