Author Archives: Marco

Writing Concise, Effective Business Paragraphs

Writing Concise, Effective Business Paragraphs

How long or short should a paragraph be? What should it contain? How should the paragraphs in your document link to each other? These are all good questions because, when writing a business report, proposal, letter, email, or any other document, good paragraphing skills are important.

Briefly stated, a paragraph is a group of sentences about one specific idea. This paragraph, for instance, deals with the definition of a paragraph. There is no set length for a paragraph, but, generally, three full sentences is considered the minimum and half a page is considered the maximum.

A paragraph should begin with a topic sentence, that is, a sentence which addresses the subject of the paragraph. It may, as in the first paragraph in this essay, begin with a question. The other sentences in the paragraph should supply information that helps to explain the topic.

Sometimes it is easy to determine when to start a new paragraph—because you have moved from one topic to another. You may have written a large number of sentences about a specific topic, let’s say more than twelve (or more than 200 words). At that point, you may need to ask the question Is this paragraph too long? As has been stated, there is no limit in terms of the number of sentences in a paragraph, but, when a paragraph takes up about half of a page or when it looks like it is too long, then it may be too long. If, upon reading it, you find that the topic has shifted slightly, that is a good place at which to divide the paragraph. For instance, if the topic sentence is how much the business climate has changed during the past twelve months, and, after a number of sentences in which you explain that idea, the topic has shifted to the importance of communication in the workplace, that may the point at which to begin a new paragraph.

Besides knowing when to end a paragraph and when start a new one, you should also develop smooth transitions between paragraphs. Sometimes, this is easy. Phrases such as “In addition to…” or “Conversely….” or “Despite….” are obvious transitional phrases. However, it is not necessary to use a transitional phrase to link a new paragraph to the previous one. Simply repeating a key word that had been used in the previous paragraph works just as well. In this essay, using the word “paragraph” or the phrase “good writing skill” helps in terms of linking paragraphs. In addition, simply writing a topic sentence which spells out that the new paragraph is about a topic that relates to the previous one is an efficient way of creating a transition. An example of that, in that same report about the business climate, would be the following topic sentence: “Of course, one year’s business climate may vary quite a bit from how it had been the year before.”

Good paragraphing is not a science; however, it is a skill that is important in terms of good writing. To sum up, a paragraph is a collection of sentences that refer to the topic sentence. A paragraph is generally at least three sentences long, and should not, if at all possible, exceed half of a page. Transitions between paragraphs lend a fluid smoothness to the finished business document.

Like many other writing skills, understanding the basics is the first step in terms of mastery. Writing with care and proofreading what you have written is a fine way in which to practice writing skills, including paragraphing. After a period of time, you will find that writing solid paragraphs which link to the others in a piece of writing has become routine.

Writing Effective Business Documents

Writing Effective Business Documents

In order to be able to write concise, to-the-point business documents, whether they are reports, memos, proposals, evaluations, emails, or any other type of written material, you must first devote a great deal of energy into thinking and planning. In order to compose a tightly written prose piece that clearly communicates your perspective on a particular issue, you must determine what you want to say and how best to say it. That seems obvious, but, oftentimes, business documents are unclear or, halfway through, they lose their focus.

Writing an outline is often a helpful way of beginning the writing process. Once you actually start to write the document, you may, of course, vary from your outline, but you should not stray far from your original theme. If, for example, the point of the document that you are writing is to explain new office protocols, do not move into the area of the current global economic situation. That may relate to your thesis, and so, it may be addressed, but you should not lose focus. Complete the document on which you are working, and then you may return to the other topic in a subsequent business essay.

The next, critically important step, once the essay has been written, is to edit it for clarity and precision. Business editing is both a skill and an art. It involves both macro and micro approaches. First, the essay must be read in order to evaluate the point of view and the thesis. That is the macro approach.

Then, the document must be microscopically inspected. The text must be read word-for-word. This is when errors in spelling, English usage, punctuation, and vocabulary should be spotted and corrected. If needed, whole sentences and, if necessary, entire paragraphs should be edited and/or rewritten so that they smoothly and logically flow from preceding ones. Transitional sentences, if needed, should be inserted.

At some point during the proofreading and editing process, you should spell check your work. That will not catch every error, but it will allow you to spot many of them.

The final step in terms of reviewing a business document is to read it as if you are the intended audience, and not the writer. Does the document communicate its message? Will it be clear to those for whom it is intended? You may want to ask a colleague to read it. Assure him or her that you do want an honest opinion of the document, and not simply an “It’s fine” response.

Business writing should be 100% clear and to-the-point. It should not rely on metaphors, poetic license, or figures of speech. The purpose of a business document is to clearly communicate a message. It may be entertaining, but that is beside the point. If the document is not easily comprehensible, its message may never be communicated.

Checking and Rechecking and….

Checking and Rechecking and….

It can be frustrating: You spend time considering how best to write that business document, whether it is an email, business proposal, contract, memo, protocol, or whatever. Then you write it out, and check it as you go. After that, you read it over to make sure it is free of errors. Finally, when you are sure your document is ready for submission or publication, you allow it to be distributed…only to discover, when it is too late, that you left errors in place. Worse than that, before you notice the errors, someone else, a client, one of your co-workers, or your supervisor points out your mistakes to you.

How can you prevent this embarrassing, perhaps damaging scenario from occurring? Well, the answer comes under the heading of You Can Never Be Too Careful. When you have finished checking and rechecking, you may want to check over your work again. How? Here are some hints:

  1. Spell check your work. Do this before you perform your own proofreading of your document. This step will pinpoint and allow you to correct most of the serious errors. It will also provide you with an opportunity to clarify sentences and phrases that are unclear.
  2. Proofread and edit your written work on two levels, micro and macro. On the micro level, you should be looking for errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, word usage, and all other aspects of English usage that the spell checking missed. On the macro level, you should be making sure your document is clear and concise and that your thoughts flow logically and smoothly. Do this by reading your document, not sentence by sentence, but word by word (micro). This will allow you to spot and correct errors that you might otherwise not notice.
  3. Read your entire document on the macro level. Make sure it effectively communicates your message.
  4. Print it out and read it. Sometimes, you may be able to spot errors on paper that you may not notice when reading your document on a computer monitor.
  5. Ask someone else to read it. Before you do this, resign yourself to the possibility that the one who is reading your work will actually find errors, which, of course, is why you have asked him or her to read it. But…you cannot allow yourself to be offended by this person’s critiquing of your work.
  6. When all is said and done, you may want to take one more action to ensure that your written work is free or errors, properly formatted, and clearly presented—submit it to a professional proofreading and editing service.

Since a poorly written or imprecisely formulated document does not communicate its message as well as one that has been carefully written and proofread, this may be the most effective and worthwhile action that you can take in reference to your written work.

Before You Write that Report

Before You Write that Report

Business-related documents, such as reports, memos, and policy papers, are always aimed at accomplishing a specific purpose. They are generally written to explain a policy, correct a procedure, report results, or some other clearly defined chore. The following is a list of rules that, if followed, may help you to write clear, coherent business documents that fulfill their purposes.

  1. Clarify your role: Before you begin to even think about your topic, make sure you are the appropriate one to be writing about it. You would not want to step on anyone’s toes in terms of addressing your topic.
  2. Define your thoughts: Before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you should clearly define your thesis or premise or at least the goal of your writing effort. Your thinking should go beyond “Developing a new employee vacation policy” or “Coming up with a sales incentive plan.” Before you start writing, a process which, if done correctly, involves a great deal of effort, you should attempt to clarify your thoughts and your direction. This may involve writing notes or putting together an outline. The more time and effort you devote to your pre-writing thinking, the more likely it is that your document will be logical, clear, and effective.
  3. Conduct some research: You may not need to look far or deeply, but remember, a carefully researched paper is generally more credible than one which reflects only your point of view. Research may involve consulting the Internet or published sources or company files. It may also involve formal or informal surveys of those in your place of business or those with whom your firm does business.
  4. Develop a working title: This may not be the one you end up using when you publish or email or submit your work, but it will help to guide your writing. For example, the title “Revised Employee Vacation Policy for ABC Corporation” clearly outlines what you want to say. In the course of your writing, if you decide that you have varied from your working title, you should either refine the parameters of your document (and, possibly, excise the extraneous material so that it can be used in another document) or, if you want to retain what you have written, you may want to rename your document.
  5. Follow your outline or notes: This does not mean that you should not branch out and stray from what you have written in note or outline form, but, on the other hand, you should not simply ignore what you jotted down during the planning stage of your writing. Sometimes, during the blizzard of thoughts that may hit you during the process of writing, you may forget important points about which you had written notes.
  6. Spread your wings: Do not hold yourself back while you are writing. Let your thoughts flow. You can correct your spelling, punctuation, etc. afterwards.
  7. Examine your work with a magnifying glass: Not really! But, once you have finished writing, the first reading of your document should be a careful, word-for-word, sentence-for-sentence attempt at proofreading. During this reading, you should be more concerned with spelling, grammatical, punctuation, and vocabulary errors than with style and flow. This is the time to correct any and all technical errors. You may, of course, as you are correcting errors, rewrite and delete sentences and add new material.
  8. The second reading should involve improving the clarity of the document. During this reading, you should attempt to upgrade your vocabulary. For example, you may decide to replace “get” with “obtain,” “attain,” or more academic or professional-sounding synonyms.
  9. The third reading should be done as if you are a member of the target audience. This is the time to determine whether the document is clearly written, to-the-point, and error-free. You should eliminate repetition and unnecessary words and phrases. You may want to print your document and read it from the paper. This may allow you to spot errors that you missed while reading your document from the monitor.
  10. Spell check or/and submit your paper to a professional editing service.

Remember, your business document must be clear, concise, to-the-point, and well written. It should clarify important aspects of your business and it should reflect your best effort.

Writing Effectively by Avoiding Common Errors

Writing Effectively by Avoiding Common Errors

English is a language that is rich in terms of complexities and possibilities, one that has evolved from older versions of German and French, as well as from Latin, Greek, and other languages. That is one of the reasons why there are often many choices when one wants to say or write something. This often leads to errors in terms of knowing which word to use in a given context.

Rather than attempting to trace the histories of thousands of words in English, this article will simply provide instruction in terms of when and how to use certain common words whose misuse often leads to errors.

Let us start with fewer and less. Both words are adjectives, but they are not used interchangeably. Fewer is used to describe objects or persons—in other words, things which can be counted. The following are examples of when to use fewer:

  • She has fewer hats than Mary.
  • How many fewer votes did Clinton receive than Obama?
  • Mr. Jones has had fewer opportunities to speak to clients than I have.

Less is used in reference to things which cannot easily be counted. The following are examples of when to use less:

  • There is less money is circulation now than in the 1990s.
  • He is exercising less often than he did when he was younger.
  • This school appears to have less structure than the one that we visited earlier today.

Two other words which are often confused are number and amount. As with fewer, number is used to describe objects or people—things which can be easily counted. The following are examples of the proper use of number:

  • The number of people voting for Jones is higher than those who voted for Smith.
  • What is the correct number of vehicles crossing the bridge each weekend?
  • I read a large number of books every month.

Amount is used to describe those things which are not easily counted. The following are examples of the correct use of amount:

  • There is a larger amount of water in the Pacific Ocean than that which is in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Which team seems to be displaying a greater amount of confidence?
  • The United States has a larger amount of money in circulation than that in any other nation.

Another common error involves the use of who, that, and which. Use who when referring to people; use that or which when referring to other things. Here are some examples:

He is the one who caused the problem. I like plants which do not require much upkeep. He made the one comment that was sure to cause an argument.

The following outlines a few words (with examples) which are easily and often confused:

  • There……He is traveling there. There are many ways in which to skin a cat. There he is.
  • Their…….That is their house. We accepted their apology. Did you speak to their mother?
  • They’reThey’re not my friends. They’re always making us late. Do you think they’re coming?

Whose….Whose hat is this? Harriet Beecher Stowe is the writer whose novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is said to have contributed to the fiery debate that led to the Civil War. Who’s….Ruth is the one who’s always complaining. Who’s coming to the party with me?

When it comes to writing effectively and correctly, there are thousands of other potential pitfalls that a good writer must avoid. If you are unsure of your writing skills, you might want to send your documents to a professional proofreading and editing service before you submit them.

Writing Effective and Readable Business Reports and Other Documents

Writing Effective and Readable Business Reports and Other Documents

As long as written communication continues to play an essential role in the world of business, it will be important for all of those who write memos, emails, inter-office communiqués, reports, and other business documents to know how to write in such as way that their readers are able to understand the messages contained in their documents. It is important to have a working knowledge of the rules of Standard English. Let’s face it: a document is only as effective as it is clear and readable.

The key to writing effective and readable business documents is organization. Before writing anything that is going to be sent to colleagues, supervisors, customers, clients, or any others, you should take the time to think about what you want to say. What is the message that you are attempting to convey? Many people find writing an outline or a sketch to be helpful. Others prefer to gather thoughts and just jot down notes. Some people, especially those who think on their feet, simply sit at their keyboards, and write. After all, whatever you write can always be changed, expanded, or deleted.

It is important to keep sentences to the point. That does not mean that they have to be short, but each sentence should be aimed at explaining one main idea. If, for example, you were to write an evaluation of a new employee, you would want to explain his or her strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures so that whoever is reading the report would be able to understand the important points the first time around. You would not want to put too much information into each sentence. You might be tempted to write, “During this thirty day period, Donald has done well in terms of motivation and he has accomplished a lot, such as regularly contacting clients in a timely manner and updating them on new developments, and he has introduced some initiatives in his department, but not all of them have proved to be useful.” It would be better to divide all of that information into separate sentences, as: “During this thirty day period, Donald has done well in terms of motivation and he has accomplished a lot.” “He regularly contacts clients in a timely manner, updating them on new developments.” “He has also introduced some initiatives in his department, but not all of them have proved to be useful.”

Of course, as you are writing, you should re-read what you have written, either after each sentence or at the end of each paragraph. In this way, you will be able to back-track, and then add or delete information according to the flow of the document. In the same way that you should attempt to keep your sentences short and pertinent to the topic, your paragraphs should also be brief and to the point. A paragraph need only be two sentences long, but most are longer. The longest a paragraph should be is about 250 words. That is not a hard and fast regulation, but it a good rule of thumb. A well-written paragraph should contain a main idea and a number of sentences which clarify that point.

Once the document has been completed, you should re-read it in its entirety—twice. The first reading should be to determine whether you wrote what you meant to say and whether it is clear and concise. Your second reading should be in order to ensure that the sentences flow into each other and the paragraphs do likewise. At this point, even before you perform a spell check, you should attempt to spot and eliminate errors in of spelling, punctuation, grammar, and usage. Of course, if you believe that you are weak in terms of the mechanics of writing, you might want to have your document proofread and edited by a professional. Many reliable proofreading and services can be found online.

Remember, unless your business document is clear and well-written, it will not adequately convey your message. Business documents should always succinctly communicate ideas from the writer to the reader.

Don’t Forget How to Write

Don’t Forget How to Write

The wide-spread use of email and text messaging has gotten many people into the habit of relying on abbreviations, acronyms, and emoticons. These shortcuts have become essential elements in electronic communication. However, when composing letters, proposals, contracts, memos, or other business documents, online or on paper, it is crucial to adhere to the fundamentals of Standard English writing. That means paying attention to proper spelling, punctuation, and all of the rules of English usage.

That being said, this is a good time to review some valuable writing tips:

  1. Write concisely, but completely: Write full sentences. Do not repeat, but include all of the essentials in each paragraph. Try to keep paragraphs to 200 words or fewer.
  2. Spell correctly: Pay attention to your writing so that you spell words correctly. If you are not sure of the spelling of a word, use the spell check function of your word processing program or consult a dictionary.
  3. Use correct punctuation and usage: Punctuation can be problematic. Here are a few good tips: a) Use capital letters only for the beginnings of sentences, titles, and the beginnings of quotes. b) End all sentences with periods. c) Use semicolons (;) only rarely. They are generally used in place of periods, between two complete sentences that are very close to each other in terms of their topics. When you use a semi colon, do not begin the second sentence with a capital letter; it is a related phrase. The previous sentence is an example of the proper use of a semi colon. d) Write full sentences. A full sentence has a subject and a predicate. e) Do not overuse apostrophes. Apostrophes are not used to pluralize words. The plural of doctor is doctors. No apostrophe should be there. Apostrophes are used only for possession and for contractions. Here are examples: That is the doctor’s car…and…I can’t help you.
  4. Stay on your topic: Of course, each sentence in a document will express a different idea from all others, but, within each paragraph address only one main topic.
  5. Use the correct format for citing references and for creating bibliographies: Other entries in this blog cover that subject.
  6. Be consistent in your writing: Use the same spelling for words throughout your paper. Check your written work to ensure that you do not spell, for example, the name of a cited author as Connor in one place and Connors in another.
  7. Copy quotations carefully: Unless you are copying and pasting text, there is always the possibility that you will transcribe a direct quote incorrectly. This is an error that must be avoided.
  8. Make sure that words in your sentences agree: Words in your sentences must agree in terms of gender, number, and tense. This is also true of sentences within a paragraph or a longer section of text. For instance, if you are citing a female, then you must use pronouns that refer to females, such as she and her. If you are referring to several cities, do not use the pronoun it. When discussing events that occurred in the past or people who are no longer alive, do not use verbs in the present tense, such as builds or speaks.
  9. Do not assume that the reader knows what you are talking about: Do not refer to ideas or books or events or people unless you have mentioned them in previous sentences. A writer may forget that the reader does not know the information in a piece of writing as well as he or she does. New ideas need to be introduced and, sometimes, explained.
  10. Be careful in terms of your spelling of names of people, organizations, etc.: Writing the names of people and organizations correctly is important. For example, it is The New York Times, not New York Times.

Remember, your writing must clearly communicate your message. In formal writing, as opposed to electronic messaging, the traditional rules still apply.

Proofreading and Editing Your Written Work: Using the Rules of POWER

Proofreading and Editing Your Written Work: Using the Rules of POWER

Proofreading and editing your written work need not wait until you are finished writing. In fact, one method of creating clear, correctly phrased, concise, and to-the-point reports, memos, proposals, contracts, letters, and all other types of written work is to follow the rules of POWER:

  1. Plan
  2. Outline
  3. Write defensively
  4. Edit
  5. Revise

Plan your written work. Before you pick up that pen or pencil or touch your keyboard, decide what you want to write, why you are writing it, and what you hope your document will accomplish.

Outline your ideas. You may use a formal Roman numeral type of outline or simply jot down notes, but, either way, you should put your ideas down on paper before you start to write.

Writing defensively means, as you are writing, you should think about your word choices and the organization of your document. Writing as well as you can at the beginning can help you to avoid the need for large-scale revisions later on. Many professional writers take the opposite perspective: they say that the first draft of a document should flow freely and quickly, without regard to writing rules. They believe that the writer should not be concerned with the mechanics of writing until after the first draft has been completed. I propose combining the two approaches: you should write freely, but, every so often, let’s say, after a paragraph or two, you should re-read what you have written, and tighten up your writing.

Edit your paper thoroughly as soon as you are done writing. Look for errors in terms of spelling, punctuation, vocabulary usage, grammar, etc., as well as transitions between sentences and paragraphs.

Revise your paper to make it as concise and clear as possible. Remember, if you want your work to be read and understood, it has to be readable. Do not say more than you need to in order to make your point. On the other hand, explain yourself. Just because you know what you mean, that does not guarantee that whoever reads your paper will understand your meaning. Step back, and try to put yourself in the shoes of whoever will be reading your paper. Will he or she or they understand what you mean?

By following the rules of POWER, you will be able to create documents that clearly make their points and which communicate your ideas to the reader.

When to Use Apostrophes…and When Not to Use Them

When to Use Apostrophes…and When Not to Use Them

Since a document is only as useful as it is readable, a writer should make sure that it is free of all English usage and punctuation errors before submitting it for publication or dissemination. One important aspect of punctuation involves the use of apostrophes.

Apostrophes are properly used in only two circumstances, for contractions and to indicate possession.

Let’s examine contractions first. Contractions are words which are composed of two individual words, such as isn’t, they’re, and they’ll. An apostrophe is used in place of a letter or letters that have been dropped from one of the words that compose the contraction. In the case of isn’t, which is composed of is and not, the apostrophe holds the place of the o, which was deleted from not. In they’re, the apostrophe takes the place of the a from are. In the case of they’ll, the apostrophe is used in place of two letters, w and i from the word will.

As previously stated, apostrophes are also used to show possession. That means to indicate that a subject or other noun in a sentence “owns” or “possesses” something or someone. That construction is generally formed by adding an apostrophe and an s to the end of the noun. Here are some examples of that:

The insurance agent’s clients are pleased with his approach. The agent possesses (in a grammatical sense) the clients.

We invited Mr. Campbell’s family to the awards dinner. Mr. Campbell possesses his family.

When can we expect this month’s report? The report is a possession of this month.

When indicating possession in reference to regular plural nouns, the apostrophe is placed between the last letter of the singular form of the word and the s, as in the following:

We spent hours calculating the workers’ compensation package. In this sentence, the noun that is the subject of possession is workers, the plural of worker. They possess the compensation package.

The company plans on honoring the vice presidents’ achievements. The achievements are those of the vice presidents (more than one vice president).

Mrs. Jackson is attempting to resolve the clients’ problems. The problems are those of the clients (more than one client).

There are two special situations involving possessives: names ending in s and when using irregular plural nouns. In terms of names ending in s, the apostrophe is added to the end of the name, after the s. The examples below involve names that end in s:

That is Charles’ new office. Obviously, the name is Charles.

Mr. Fieldings’ briefcase is missing. The name is Fieldings, not Fielding. If it were Fielding, then the possessive form would be Mr. Fielding’s briefcase

We plan on celebrating Gladys’ birthday tomorrow. The apostrophe belongs after the s because her name is Gladys, not Glady.

When showing possession with words which are irregular plurals (that is, spellings that are different from the singular form), an apostrophe and then an s are placed after the word. The following are examples of possessive apostrophe use in words with irregular plural spellings:

The women’s group will meet with us next week. Women is the irregular plural of woman.

That is the men’s locker room. Men is the irregular plural of man.

We have a children’s day every summer. Children is the irregular plural of child.

Under no circumstances should apostrophes be used to indicate plurals. The following cases are all incorrect:

All of the new employee’s are working out well. It should be employees.

Have we determined which clients’ will be eligible for the discount? It should be clients.

Next month, we should discuss the strategy’s for our new marketing campaign. It should be strategies.

To sum up, apostrophes are correctly used only in contractions and to show possession, and not to pluralize nouns.

Easily Confused Words

Easily Confused Words

When it comes to writing business documents, your meaning must be crystal clear. The correct use of words is, obviously, essential. A common type of writing error involves the use of easily confused words.

The most typical of this kind of error involves the use of words that sound similar, such as 1) there, their, and they’re 2) its and it’s 3) your and you’re.

  1. In the first group, there and their are homographs, meaning “same sound,” but their meanings and uses are very different from each other. The last one in this group, they’re, is a contraction which, even though it does not sound exactly the same as the other two words, is often incorrectly used in place of them.First, let’s deal with they’re. They’re is a contraction of they are, as in “I think they’re the right ones for the new program.” That’s the easy one to remember.Now, to the homographs. There can be an adverb, a pronoun, or a noun. But, don’t worry about that. There is always used to refer to a place or to a state of being. These are some examples of the correct use of there:We will open our new operations center there.
    There have been many recent changes in our customer base.
    There was a time when we visited each customer on a weekly basis.And, of course, it’s not really a sentence, but: Been there, done that.

    A way to remember how to use there is to call to mind the fact that the word here is embedded in the word there. If you can use here in a sentence, then you can use there in that sentence, if the word is being used to refer to a physical space.

    Now for their. Their is a possessive pronoun. It is always used before a noun or a noun phrase to indicate that something belongs to two or more people or to an entity.

    Here are some examples:

    We are ready to adopt their procedure.
    Did you see their office?
    That’s their problem.

  2. Two other words that are very often confused with each other are its and it’s. The first one, its, is a pronoun, as in “The operations staff makes its own decisions.” The second word, it’s, is a contraction of it is. It is used as follows: “We have decided that it’s time for the announcement.”
  3. Now we will deal with your and you’re. The first one, your, is a pronoun. It is used in the following way: “Getting the project started is your responsibility.” The other word, you’re, is a contraction of you are. It is used as follows: “We believe that you’re the right one for this job.”

The following is an additional list of easily confused words (mostly in pairs) that sound and/or look similar to each other, and which people often use incorrectly or interchangeably. Since they have vastly different meanings from each other, their inappropriate uses can dramatically change the intent of what you are writing. If the word is spelled correctly, most word processing spell check programs will not indicate that you have used the wrong one. If you are not sure about when to use each of the following words, you should rely on a dictionary for definitions and usages or, in Microsoft Word, go to Tools, and then Language, and then Thesaurus. That will reveal words with similar meanings. In addition, there are a number of excellent websites devoted to the topic of easily confused words.

  • accept…except
  • access…excess
  • adverse…averse
  • advice…advise
  • affect…effect
  • all ready…already
  • all together…altogether
  • allusion…illusion
  • breath…breadth
  • canvas…canvass
  • capital…capitol
  • cite…sight…site
  • compose…comprise
  • connote…denote
  • course…coarse
  • complement…compliment
  • council…counsel
  • desert…dessert
  • diner…dinner
  • discreet…discrete
  • elicit…illicit
  • eminent…imminent
  • faith…fate
  • foreword…forward
  • farther…further
  • few…less
  • flaunt…flout
  • holy…wholly
  • lead…led
  • lightening…lightning
  • loose…lose
  • moral…morale
  • passed…past
  • personal…personnel
  • principal…principle
  • prostate…prostrate
  • quiet…quit…quite
  • stationary…stationery
  • than…then
  • throne…thrown
  • weak…week
  • weather…whether
  • whose…who’s

Ok. That should clear up the problem. In reference to writers who have had problems with this issue in the past, hopefully, they’re now competent in their use of the words, and there will not be any more mistakes. It’s not difficult to learn how to use each word in its correct place. In reference to easily confused words, once you’re sure about their meanings, your writing will be much clearer.