Mechanics of Writing

Grammar Brush-Up

Most writers could benefit from a refresher on grammar basics (and let's face it, some of us may be learning some of these basics for the first time).  Good grammar shapes your credibility and your reputation as an intelligent professional (in e-mails, blog posts, any format where your writing represents your thoughts and ideas). The following materialreviews punctuation (including common points of confusion such as when to use a semicolon or a comma), word choice (affect v. effect, who v. that, etc.), and sentence structure (passive v. active, parallel lists).  


Using Plain English 

The most effective business writing is clear and concise. Avoid wordy phrases ("consider" v. "take into consideration") and unnecessarily fancy words ("endeavor" v. "try"). Here is a guide for using plain English

  • Additionally, the SEC Plain English Handbook has a lot more useful information about clear, concise writing. 
  • Steve Wilbers writes a bimonthly column on business writing that appears in the business section of the Monday Minneapolis Star Tribune.  His very useful website -- -- includes columns, advice and exercises on topics including punctuation, wordiness, and many other topics that will help you improve your business writing. You can also sign up to receive monthly writing tips.  


Writing Effective E-mails

Ideally your e-mail reflects your professionalism and the accepted practices of the organization(s) in which you send e-mail.  Here are some tips on creating and responding to e-mail in a way that achieves the results you desire.