Talking Chairs
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11 corporate terms and what they mean to...

I once worked for a company where the HR department insisted that we use the term “full-time equivalents” instead of “employees” or “staff.” They’d say, “Our full-time equivalents are our most valuable asset.” To HR staff, the term “full-time equivalents” has a specific meaning, so that’s why they use it. To corporate communicators, “full-time equivalents” is just another dehumanizing HR term that we advise HR staff not to use. (Same with “human assets” or “human capital.”) Below is list of other such corporate terms and what they...
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A brief guide to using “a” a...

Determining whether to use “a” versus “an” should not be confusing, but it is. This week, I had a prolonged discussion with a co-worker about why “an MRI” is correct and “a MRI” is not. It turns out that many of us were taught the wrong rules for use of the indefinite articles. I remember being told to use “an” when the word preceding it starts with a vowel and to use “a” when the word preceding it starts with a consonant. The rules actually say to use “an” before any word beginning with a vowel sound and to use “a” before any word...
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19 annoying words and their alternatives

Each year, language websites and popular publications poll readers to find out what they consider to be the most annoying words in the English language. Words such as “slacks,” “moist” and “dude” frequently make the lists. A few of my most-hated words are listed below, along with their less irritating alternatives. Artisanal — use “handmade” or “hand-crafted.“ Annoying: Cassandra will only eat artisanal cheese, so please bring her something else. Better: Cassandra will only eat hand-made cheese, so please bring her something...
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5 ways to break the writing rules

Every few months at my house, we have “do what you want night.” I let my kids break the house rules and have an evening of fun and frivolity. “Yes, you can have popcorn for dinner, you can eat it in front of the TV, you don’t have to take a bath, and you can stay up as late as you want.” Sometimes, it’s good to take a break from following and enforcing the rules. The same could be said for the rules of writing. Writers and editors frequently enforce style, grammar, spelling and punctuation rules at our companies or for our clients. Occasionally, to achieve the...
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5 signs of “legalese”

Fred Rodell, the former dean of Yale Law School, said, “There are two things wrong with most legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content.” No matter what industry they work in, corporate communicators have had dealings with “legalese.” It’s everywhere: in the employee handbook, in corporate policies, on website disclaimers, in contracts with clients. No matter how many times a non-attorney reads legalese, the true meaning remains elusive. Tired of writing clear, fluid text? Want to gum it up with legalese? Drop in a few of these...
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57 words you may not have known you coul...

Like many PR Daily readers, I enjoy a friendly game of Scrabble now and then. Well, maybe “friendly” isn’t the best way to describe it. I’m actually a merciless Scrabble player. It goes back to when I was 10 and playing Scrabble with my older sister. She wouldn’t let me put “zit” on the triple word score because she insisted “zit” wasn’t a word. Furious, I quit the game, flipped over the board, and swore I would never again play Scrabble with my sister. For those who’ve had similar experiences playing Scrabble, here is a list of high scoring,...
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13 clever and inspiring quotes about wri...

Writers often pride themselves on their limitless creativity, but even they occasionally need an inspirational push. Luckily, other writers and creative people can help. If you need a little inspiration this week, here are 13 witty and insightful quotes about writing. “A sentence should never be cruel and unusual.” — William C. Burton, attorney “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” — Albert Einstein, physicist “I have made this letter longer that usual because I lack the time to make it shorter.” —...
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14 of Shakespeare’s most captivati...

Opening lines can torment writers. The lead sentence can make or break what we’ve written. They are often the deciding factor in whether readers keep reading. To find inspiration for my own writing projects, I often study the first lines of great literary works.Recently, I’ve been interested in the first lines of Shakespeare’s plays. Some of his most famous works open simply (“Who’s there?” in Hamlet.), while others immediately draw readers in with a mystery. Here are a few of my favorites: “When shall we three meet again In thunder, lightning, or in...