Write for Business - Blog

UpWrite Press understands the importance of writing skills in business: We're business people just like you. On this blog you'll find tips to improve your writing, along with topics of interest to our staff.

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    S or ES? Plurals of Nouns Ending in O

    Friday, August 03, 2012

    Sometimes things that appear to be the most confusing…are really the simplest.

    Take, for example, spelling the plural form of nouns ending in “o.” We are often stuck in the “s or es” quandary, wondering, “Is adding s enough, or should I add es?”  

    Don’t overthink it.

    The fact is, for most nouns ending in “o,” you simply add s. These include cases in which…

    • the letter before the final “o” is a vowel—studios, videos, kangaroos;
    • the letter before the final “o” is a consonant, but the word is a shortened version of another word—typos (short for “typographical errors”), photos (short for “photographs”), autos (short for “automobiles”);
    • the letter before the final “o” is a consonant, but the word is a proper noun—Navahos, Picassos;
    • or the word has come into American English from another language—burritos and tangos (from Spanish), kimonos (from Japanese).

    So when do you add es instead? Actually, there are very few nouns ending in “o” that need an es to make them plural, and you can just memorize them. The most common are potatoes, echoes, heroes, torpedoes, vetoes, and embargoes.

    Finally, many nouns ending in “o” can be spelled either way; for example, tornados/tornadoes, zeros/zeroes, and mosquitos/mosquitoes. Check your dictionary for the preferred spelling, but know that either is correct. 

    —Joyce Lee

    Photo by Jeremy Keith

    Writing in Cars with Boys

    Thursday, October 06, 2011

    Have you ever bought a used car?

    Recently my youngest daughter asked me to look over a used car she was considering buying. The dealer's salesperson smiled and walked us over to it, saying, "Great body. Not a scratch on her." I got in, started the engine, looked over the interior - all in good shape. I got back out, opened the hood and looked at seals, hoses, and so on, then bent down to look at the tires and underbody. The wheel wells were rusted completely through. When I asked the dealer's mechanic about repairing them, he took a look and replied, "The whole underbody is rusted out. I wouldn't feel comfortable selling this car to your daughter."

    Now for the other side of the picture. One of the first cars my wife and I owned was a used Buick. Mechanically, that car was wonderful. Cosmetically, it was a mess. The paint was peeling off the roof. The hood had been replaced, and its color didn't match the rest of the car. The rear bumper was falling off and had to be held up with a rope tied inside the trunk. My wife was embarrassed to be seen in the thing, but I loved it: Good on gas, dependable starter even in the coldest weather, a smooth ride, and so on.

    Those two cars represent different attitudes about business writing.

    Writing teachers often focus on grammar training, punctuation practice, spelling, and correct word usage, as if these were what make writing perform. But this is like paying attention to how a car looks without considering how it runs. A great paint job and leather upholstery do no good if the underbody has rusted through or the engine is broken.

    Business leaders often focus on content to the exclusion of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and correct usage, arguing that the only thing that really matters is communication. But this is like driving my old junker back and forth to work. Other people really do care how your ride looks.

    Having been a writing teacher, I understand that grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word usage are easiest to grade. Ideas, organization, and voice require more expertise and energy. Working in business, I also understand that communication and delivery speed are essential. Devoting time to proofreading can seem counterproductive. (And maybe we still have some slight resentment toward those teachers who marked up all our papers in school.)

    The truth is, of course, that we need both. A piece of writing must be well designed and mechanically sound to communicate. It must have sound ideas, a logical organization, and an appropriate voice for its audience. But it must also look good if we are to be taken seriously. This is where editing and proofreading become important - to ensure correctness in spelling, punctuation, grammar, word choice, and sentence construction. Page design (use of headings, columns, lists, graphics, and so on) is also important, of course, to help readers quickly comprehend your message.

    You can find tips about all of these things by using the search box on this site, and more in-depth information in our print publications. You might consider these your toolboxes. Here's wishing you the best on your writing journey.

    - Lester Smith

    Photo by Ross Griff

    Spelling Rules: y as the Last Letter

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    If a word ends in a y preceded by a consonant, change the y to i before adding any suffix, unless the suffix is ing.

    worry worrisome worrying
    study studious studying
    lazy laziness  
    try tried trying

    If a word ends in a y preceded by a vowel, form the plural by simply adding an s.

    key keys
    day days
    play plays

    For more business-writing tips, browse our blog or use the search box atop the page. Or purchase our handy Proofreader's Guide ebook or Write for Business handbook.

    Spelling Rules: Silent e

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    If a word ends with a silent e, keep the e when adding a suffix beginning with a consonant. Drop the e when adding a suffix beginning with a vowel.

    hope hopeful hoping
    care careless caring
    value valueless valuable
    love lovelorn lovable

    Exceptions: courageous, noticeable, judgment

    For more business-writing tips, browse our blog or use the search box atop the page. Or purchase our handy Proofreader's Guide ebook or Write for Business handbook.

    Spelling Rules: Final Consonant

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    If a single-syllable word (for example, sad) ends with a consonant (d) preceded by a single vowel (a), double the final consonant before adding a suffix beginning with a vowel (saddest).

    tap tapping
    plan planner

    If a multisyllable word (admit) ends in a consonant (t) preceded by a single vowel (i), the accent is on the last syllable (ad-mit´), and the suffix begins with a vowel (ed)—the same rule holds true: double the final consonant (admitted).

    occur occurrence
    refer referring

    For more business-writing tips, browse our blog or use the search box atop the page. Or purchase our handy Proofreader's Guide ebook or Write for Business handbook.