Beginning an Email with Dear?

A recent request for linguistic advice ends with a plea that makes me feel like Obi Wan Kenobi: O Maeve, … I hope you can help because the silent scream starts every time I send an email. You’re my only hope. The required advice concerns the appropriate salutation for an email. Struggling to avoid rudeness …Read more

Why Teachers Need Plot, Emotion and Story

Students like stories. Teachers know that stories keep their interest. But plot, emotion, character, conflict and theme – the tools of a fiction writer – can be power tools for educators as well. Having an attitude in class Learning theorists have taught that students learn when they feel the need to; that in a sense, …Read more

Top 10 Resume Writing Tips for 2018

Writing a resume can be really tough. You know you need to convince an employer that you’re the best person for the job – but how exactly do you do that? It can be especially hard if you’ve been out of the job market for a while, and you feel that you’re not sure what’s …Read more

Addressing A Letter to Two People

One post often leads to another. The recent article “Conventional Letter Salutations in English” garnered several questions about how to address a letter to a married couple who have different titles and/or different surnames. Traditional letter-writing etiquette is based on traditional professional and marital patterns derived from the following assumptions: 1. A married couple is …Read more

Conventional Letter Salutations in English

A reader asks if a letter salutation can include more than one honorific. For example: Dear President Dr. Turner The short answer is, “not in English.” The conventional letter salutations in English are these Dear Mr. Adams Dear Mr. and Mrs. Adams Dear Ms. Adams Dear Margaret Adams Dear Harry (if you know the person …Read more

Five Obfuscating Business Verbs

I’ve just learned five new business verbs: onboard, level-set, operationalize, descope, and action-plan. One meaning of to onboard is “to train new employees.” The expression is so common that many professional sites actually use the labels Onboard and Onboarding in their menus to direct new employees to relevant information. Most of the time, the expression …Read more

Starting a Business Letter with Dear Mr.

Several years ago, when a reader said he refused to use “Dear So-and-So” to begin a business letter because dear is too intimate a word to use with a stranger, I assumed that he represented a minority of one. Who, I wondered, would interpret an established convention like “Dear Sir” literally? Little did I know! …Read more

Beginning A Business Letter with First Person Singular

A reader wonders about beginning a letter with the first person pronoun: I was taught never to begin a letter (business or personal) with the word “I.” This must certainly have to do with the mostly outdated concept of humility being a virtue. However, I continue to believe that humility is a virtue and that the root …Read more

Spell My Name Right

“I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.” No one knows who said it first, but anyone who has ever written for a newspaper or magazine has heard some version of this quotation. It’s a thought to be taken to heart by anyone–journalist or not–who has …Read more

Five Words in English and in Corporate-speak

企业强调的专有名词有许多种形式,特别是mysterious is the practice of taking a familiar English word commonly understood to have one meaning and using it with a less familiar meaning. Here are five examples. 1. actionable common meaning: “giving cause for legal action.” Example: Disrespect in the workplace may constitute actionable behavior. corporate usage: able …Read more


Tech columnist Rob Walker questions whether anyone still has gravitas in the Internet Era. gravitas (noun): high seriousness, as in a person’s bearing or the treatment of a subject; seriousness of conduct, bearing, speech, temperament, etc. According to Walker, “if you want to be taken seriously in our post-gravitas culture, you must demonstrate that you …Read more

The Handwritten Note

As public school districts drop instruction in cursive handwriting, and young bloggers reflect with amazement that “there was a time where [sic] just about everything was handwritten,” it’s easy to believe that no one under the age of 105 would dream of sending a handwritten note to a friend, colleague, or client. Don’t you believe …Read more