Friday, 23 August 2013

Baker's Toolkit (or not)

Perhaps a grateful nation should offer up a prayer of thanks to Luisa Zissman (who she?) for putting us right about apostrophes. This A-grader in A-level English has decided to drop the apostrophe in her company name because, you know, she says, obviously, URLs don't allow it. Perhaps they should. 

Brilliant, obviously, you know, she says, at creating multi-million pound businesses, she does admit to knowing what an adjective is but has problems with verbs and proverbs. Yes, well, we all do, don't we, chickens?

In the sure and certain knowledge that she won't accept, being busy creating multi-million businesses as she is, I'd like to offer her a free place on the next Proofamatics workshop on Friday 4 October at Capita Learning & Development. During the day, she'll revise all she ever should have learnt about grammar, spelling, punctuation and capitalisation, as well as learning a simple method of proofreading.

Far more than a baker's dozen of exercises, it's sort of, like, you know, a writer's toolkit.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Shareholders (bad) v investors (good)

"The company is being run solely for the benefit of the shareholders" - bad thing. Boo, hiss. "The company is being run solely for the benefit of the investors" - that's OK, then. Or at least, in some way, it sounds better. Why?

Shareholders own a slice of the company and, usually, get to vote at the AGM. In return they hope for a dividend and/or a share price rise. Investors put their money into the company, in a variety of ways, hoping for a return. Those 'ways' could include shares, bonds, debentures and sundry other financial instruments. In other words, not a lot of difference between the two. And your pension fund will probably be both.

Without shareholders and investors, companies wouldn't get started, wouldn't employ people, wouldn't provide goods and services that their clients want. Without shareholders and investors upstart companies wouldn't be able to challenge incumbents and offer better, cheaper, faster services to the market.

But yet, if you want to run down a company, particularly if it provides service in the public sector, you use 'shareholders' and, apparently never, 'investors'. (For many, this seems to be a coded way of saying that the government could do it better. Apart from the patently obvious fact that usually it can't, where is the money going to come from to finance this state-owned organisation? From an investor more usually called the taxpayer - and he/she won't get a choice about the investment and certainly won't be able to take the money out if it all goes wrong.)

So, next time you hear one of the commentariat or a politico banging on about shareholders, think investors. Use the less emotive word and bring some common sense to the discussion.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

What is . . .

'What is is what is not is not is not that it it is'
'What is, is. What is not, is not. Is not that it? It is.'

Silly, really.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Test your proofreading skills

How good a proofreader are you or your staff?

To celebrate summer/the Olympics/the start of the footy season/someone’s birthday/an anniversary we are giving away 100 five-minute proofreading assessments. These assessments are used in Proofamatics workshops to measure the improvement in participants' skills - usually, by the way, a 30% reduction in proofreading errors.

To claim your free assessment, and a copy of our invaluable Proofamatics guide to grammar, punctuation, spelling and capitalisation, simply e-mail us on with your name, company, address etc.

We have 100 to give away - first come, first served.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

I hope you are well?

Just received an e-mail from a company which started with 'I hope you are well?' 

I suspect the writer didn't mean what he said. He was probably asking after my health, though goodness knows why - we've never met and I may work from my bed due to a congenital illness, for all he knows. (Have you noticed how call-centre calls all start with this unnecessary question? Thus making them even more annoying than they are). What the writer actually wrote was that his hoping was in question. Personally, I would caution him against exposing his inner doubts in this way. 

The e-mail was promoting a Professional Written Communication Skills Training Course. Nuff said.

Monday, 23 July 2012

First and only

Tautological adspeak and poor at that. You can't be 'first and only'. When you were first, you were the only; if you are the only, then you were, and are, the first.

You might consider 'the first and still the only'. Don't: 'only' is sufficient here. However, 'still the only' works as a shorter, punchier, phrase and makes a point about your uniqueness and the lack of serious competition. And it's the same number of words as the first, incorrect effort.

There, that was easy, wasn't it?

A simple proofreading system

It isn't difficult to proofread but it can take time to do it efficiently - unless you have a system. Reading straight through the document and hoping for the best usually doesn't work that well. It leads to reading for comprehension and then you read what should be there, rather than what actually is there.

A simple system is required:

Concentrate You can't be on the phone, listening to the radio or having a conversation with colleagues and expect to be able to spot errors

Break up the text There are various ways of doing this. You could, for example, break the document into columns and read straight down each column; you could jump around the document reading 'blocks' of text (this is good for checking hard data such as values, quantities etc.); try reading the second half of the line before the first half (tricky, but effective)

Concentrate See above

Don't look for all types of errors at once There are too many types of errors to find them all in one go. Be prepared to scan the document two or even three times to find different sorts of errors. For example: hard data, then grammar, then typos

Concentrate Getting the message?

Finally, skim the full document Having found all, or most of the errors, read through the document, fast, to check that it makes good sense.

And don't forget to c*********e.