business writing ideas from Word Constructions
  welcome to the Word Constructions business ideas newsletter

Welcome to the December edition of business writing ideas.

December already. The start of summer and the silly season. The final weeks of another year. And generally a busy time for us all as we mix family, work and preparations for 2014.

Like many people, I have been looking at various online shops lately (it is a convenient way to research Christmas gifts, even if you don’t buy many online!) and have come across some examples where businesses could truly do with a style guide.

For instance, one site lists 12-18-13 as the date for final orders whereas their blog referred to 18-12-13. Apart from the fact this is why I always recommend ‘18th December 2013’ as a clear way of providing dates, it is confusing to switch between those dates forms. And lucky December is the 12th month - midyear clashes of 6-7 and 7-6 would be very confusing!

Another site had a polished, professional layout in blue and white. Yet when I downloaded their catalogue it was in red and green, cluttered and looked like a school student had practiced their new software skills on it. The clash was jarring and diminished their message and branding.

Do you have a style sheet or style guide for your business? Or maybe even a different one for different aspects of your business (for instance, a blog may have some slightly different rules to formal documents)?

If not, maybe now is the time to start a style sheet for your business – you can turn it into a guide over time, and it isn’t as hard as you may think… And summer may be the ideal time to start if that’s a quiet time in your business.

Use your words wisely, and have a safe festive season.


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Recent blog posts you may find useful:

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The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
Mark Twain

  business communications article by Tash Hughes

Misleading costs
By Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

We all know that a great heading will entice people – offer a deal or make a positive statement in a heading and you can attract people to find out more.

But you have to be careful that the search for a great heading doesn’t override common sense – offering something you can’t deliver is not just a misleading marketing tool. It can damage trust, so people are less likely to buy from you, and it can lead to legal action which is costly even if it doesn’t end badly.

One example that went through a legal process was a letter offering customers ‘more service, lower prices’ which of course appealed to people. However, if you read the letter itself, the deal was that instead of your current service level you will now be getting triple the service for more than double the price. The reality was you were about to pay more for more service – yes, the rate of pay per service hour was less but your expenses were much larger.

The company ignored the difference between ‘better prices’ and ‘better pricing rates’ which was misleading and confusing.

Any time you do establish a great offer headline, whether in a campaign or just a letter or email, it’s usually a good idea to double check it for clarity. And preferably get someone else to read it, too, and tell you what they expected from that heading/offer – and if the content disappointed that expectation.

The loss of a great heading is much better than loss of trust and potential legal risks, isn’t it?
Personalised Santa letters for Aussie kids
Christmas is coming, Santa is writing letters and packing his sleigh, but thereís still time to delight some Aussie kids!
  don't forget the basics of good writing and communications

Remember who is signing a letter
By Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

I recently received a letter from our optometrist reminding me it’s been two years since my daughter had an eye test. The letter includes statements like “The earlier I spot any problems” and “I look forward to seeing” which is very nice and friendly. However, when I checked to see if it was from the optometrist we actually use, I discovered it was signed by four optometrists.

The writer of this letter probably knows about matching plural and singular nouns and verbs ("we are" compared to "I am", and so on). Yet she (I say she because all four optometrists are female but I don’t know who actually wrote the letter!) didn’t think about making the letter match as well.

A letter from one person can be written in the first person singular (I look forward to seeing you).

A letter from multiple people needs to be written in the first person plural (we look forward to seeing you) or in a less personal way.

This also applies to emails, of course, and even blog posts, Facebook updates, tweets and other written communications with an attached name or names. - Australia's #1 online bookstore
Iíve had good service here so will be doing some Christmas shopping at Booktopia!
  poor writing examples

Theory has its place, but an example often makes learning something much easier. In many areas, an example of a mistake or poor quality is an even more effective teacher than examples of the correct technique so here is such an example to learn from.

Today’s example has a Christmas theme and is from a news article I read last year. The story was nice – a man who sold Christmas trees and gave them away to the poor – but the reporter (and editor) failed to do it justice with some writing errors. What’s worse is that in preparing this newsletter, I discovered that at least parts of the article were copied into other pieces about this man…


captain of one of several dozen vessels that would cross the lake around 1900 to pick up Christmas trees from northern Michigan, became a legend when …[his] … ship sank Nov. 23, 1912.

…were at the church Sunday…And Tuesday the crew…


Let’s start with the simple but extremely annoying error – naming days without a preposition looks lazy and sounds incomplete. ‘I was at church on Sunday and on Tuesday we will go to work’ requires little extra effort and sounds much better, and is actually grammatically correct. Likewise, his ship sank on November 23, 1912 (note I wrote November as Nov seems inappropriate within an article).

For the main passage, there is confusion about 1900. Presumably, the writer is telling us that the man lived around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, but ‘cross the lake around 1900’ sounds like a time reference – 1900 can also mean 7.00 pm especially for professions such as sailors who use the 24 hour clock. Given his ship sank in 1912, there is even more reason to assume 1900 refers to a time than a year (that or it is a mighty big lake that took more than 12 years to cross!) Instead of 'around 1900', it would be much clearer to write something like 'in the early 1900s'.

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