Handbook of Business Writing
Handbook of Business Writing 10
THE AMA HANDBOOK OF BUSINESS WRITINGThis page intentionally left blank The AMA Handbook of Business Writing
The Ultimate Guide to Style, Grammar, Usage,
Punctuation, Construction, and Formatting
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
AMA handbook of business writing : the ultimate guide to style, grammar, usage,
punctuation, construction, and formatting / Kevin Wilson and Jennifer Wauson.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Commercial correspondence--Handbooks, manuals, etc. 2. Business writing—
Handbooks, manuals, etc. 3. English language—Business English—Handbooks, manuals,
etc. I. Wilson, K. (Kevin), 1958– II. Wauson, Jennifer. III. American Management
© 2010 Kevin Wilson and Jennifer Wauson.
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10987654321C O NTE NTS
The Writing Process
Audience Analysis, 3 Proofreading, 19
Brainstorming, 4 Document Review, 22
Research, 7 Revisions, 23
Interviewing, 9 Documenting Sources, 24
Outlining, 10 Footnotes and Endnotes, 24
Writing a Draft, 12 Bibliographies, 26
Business Writing Style, 12 Global Communications, 26
Using Visuals, 13 Collaborative Writing, 28
Page Design, 15 Promotional Writing, 29
Publication Design, 16
The Business Writer’s Alphabetical Reference
A, An, 33 A.D., 53
Abbreviations, 33 Adjectival Noun, 53
Titles Before and After Names, 34
Adjectival Opposites, 53
Adjective Phrase, 54
Mathematical Units and
Placement of Adjectives in a
Long Phrases, 36
Words Used with Numbers, 36
Use of Multiple Adjectives, 56
Common Latin Terms, 36
Degrees of Adjectives, 56
States and Territories, 39
Irregular Form Adjectives, 57
Things You Should Not Abbreviate, 39
Spacing and Periods for
Adjuncts, Disjuncts, and Conjuncts, 58
Adverbial Clause, 59
Guidelines for Using Abbreviations
Adverbial Phrase, 59
in Your Writing, 40
Abbreviations for Measurements, 41
Prepositional Phrases Acting as
Abbreviations for Numbers, 42
Above, Below, 43
Infinitive Phrases Acting as Adverbs, 62
Absolute Form of an Adjective, 43
Adverbs in a Numbered List, 62
Absolute Phrase, 43
Adverbs to Avoid, 62
Positioning Adverbs in a Sentence, 62
Abstract Nouns, 44
Order of Adverbs, 64
Accent Marks, 44 Inappropriate Adverb Order, 64
Viewpoint Adverbs, 65
Accept, Except, 45
Focus Adverbs, 65
Access, Excess, 45
Negative Adverbs, 65
Advice, Advise, 65
Action Verbs, 46
Affect, Effect, 66
Active Voice, 52Contents vii
Affixes, 66 Antonyms, 78
African-American, 66 Any, Either, 78
Age, 67 Any, Some, 78
Agents, 67 Apart, A Part, 79
Agreement, 68 Apodosis, 79
Aid, Aide, 68 Apostrophe, 79
Alike, 96 Appears, Displays, 81
A Little, 264 Appendix, 81
Allegories, 68 Apposition, 82
Alliteration, 69 Appositives, 82
All Right, Alright, 69 Articles, 83
Allusion, Illusion, 69 As, Like, 261
Alone, Lonely, 70 Assure, Insure, Ensure, 184
A Lot, Alot, Allot, 70 Asterisks, 84
Already, All Ready, 71 As to Whether, 84
Altogether, All Together, 71 As Well As, 85
Ambitransitive Verbs, 71 Autoantonyms, 75
American English, British English, 72 Auxiliary Verbs, 85
Among, Between, 91 Average, Mean, Median, 86
Ampersand, 73 A While, Awhile, 87
A.M., P.M., 74 Awful, Awfully, 87
An, 33 Bad, Badly, 88
Anadiplosis, 74 Back-Channeling, 88
Anaphora, 74 Backslash, Slash, 88
And Also, 75 Back up, Backup, 89
And/Or, 75 Base Form of a Verb, 89
Angry, Mad, 268 Basically, Essentially, Totally, 89
Animate Nouns, 75 B.C., 89
Antagonyms, 75 Because, Since, As, 90
Antecedent, 77 Been, Gone, 90
Anti-, 77 Being That, Being As, 90
Antimetabole, 77 Below, 43viii Contents
Beside, Besides, 91 Cannot, 105
Between, Among, 91 Can’t Seem, 105
Bias, Biased, 92 Canvas, Canvass, 105
Biased or Sexist Language, 92 Capital Letters, 106
Bibliography, 94 Capital, Capitol, 106
Billion, 94 Capitalization, 106
Acts of Congress, 106
Biweekly, Bimonthly, Semiweekly,
Semimonthly, 95 Associations, 107
Book Titles and Their Subdivisions, 107
Railroad Cars and Automobile
Blog, Weblog, 95
Bold Fonts, 96
Churches and Church Dignitaries, 107
Bored, Boring, 96
Both, Alike, 96
Both, Each, 97
Legal Codes, 108
Compass Points Designating a Specific
Changes to Quoted Material, 97 Region, 108
Digressions within Parentheses, 97 Constitutions, 108
Brake, Break, 97
Brand Names, 98
Breath, Breathe, 98
Degrees (Academic), 109
Bring, Take, 99
British English, 72
Educational Courses, 109
Bulleted List, 99
Business, Right, 100
Buzzwords, 100 Geographic Divisions, 110
Government Divisions, 110
By, Bye, Buy, 100
Historical Terms, 110
By, Until, 102
Call Back, Callback, 103
Call Out, Callout, 103
Military Services, 111
Came By, 104
Nobility and Royalty, 112
Can, May, 104
Oceans and Continents, 112Contents ix
Parks, Peoples, and Tribes, 112
Personification, 112 Emphasis or Anticipation, 125
Planets and Other Heavenly Bodies, 113
Sports Stadiums, Teams, and Terms, 113
Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers, 114
Compound and Complex
Introductory Expressions, 127
Other Transitional Words, 127
Causative Verbs, 116
Prepositional Phrases, 128
Caution Notice, 286
Contrasting Phrases, 128
CD, DVD, 116
Nonrestrictive Modifiers, 128
Censor, Censure, Sensor, Censer, 117
Infinitive Phrases, 129
Champaign, Champagne, 117
Designating Dialogue, 129
Check, Control, 117
Repeated Words, 129
Word Omission, 130
Transposed Adjective Order, 130
Chicano, Latino, Hispanic, 118
Choose, Chose, 118
Cite, Site, Sight, 119
Citing Publications, 119
Company Names, 132
Common Adjectives, 132
Cleanup, Clean Up, 120
Common Nouns, 132
Cleft Sentences, 120
Company and Product Names, 133
Compared to, Compared with, 134
Click and Drag, 279
Complement, Compliment, 134
Click On, 279
Closed Compounds, 138
Complex Prepositions, 135
Coleman-Liau Index, 123
Compound Nouns, 135
Collective Adjectives, 123
Compound Predicates, 326
Collective Nouns, 123
Compound Sentences, 136
Compounding Sentence Elements, 136
Colloquial, 124x Contents
Compound Words, 137 Could of, Might of, 272
Open Compounds, 137
Council, Counsel, Consul, 151
Closed Compounds, 138
Count Nouns, 152
Hyphenated Compounds, 138
Credible, Credulous, 152
Comptroller, Controller, 139
Concrete Nouns, 139
Danger Notice, 286
Conditional Perfect, 139
Dangling Modifiers, 153
Characteristics of Dangling
Conjunctions, 141 Modifiers, 153
And, 141 Revising Dangling Modifiers, 154
Dangling Participles, 154
Punctuation for Coordinating
Other Conjunctions, 144
Deaf or Hard of Hearing, 157
Subordinating Conjunctions, 145
Correlative Conjunctions, 145
Conjunctive Adverbs, 146
Declarative Mood, 159
Declarative Sentence, 159
Connote, Denote, 146
Defining Relative Clause, 160
Considered to Be, 146
Definite Article, 160
Defuse, Diffuse, 160
Continuous Verbs, 147
Degree Adverbs, 161
Degree Titles, 161
Demonstrative Adjectives, 162
Convince, Persuade, 150
Demonstrative Pronouns, 162
Denominal Adjectives, 163
Coordinated Adjectives, 54
Denote, Connote, 146
Coordinating Conjunctions, 150
Dependent Clauses, 163
Copula Verbs, 150
Descriptive Writing, 164
Desert, Dessert, 164
Correlative Conjunction, 145Contents xi
Determiners, 164 Each Other, One Another, 178
Device, Devise, 166 Each, Their, 178
Diacritic, 166 Effect, Affect, 66
Different from, Different than, 166 Eggcorn, 178
Diffuse, Defuse, 160 e.g., i.e., 179
Dimensions, 167 Either, Neither, 179
Direct Objects, 167 Elicit, Illicit, 179
Disability, 214 Ellipses, 179
Disc, Disk, 168 Elliptical Clauses, 180
Discreet, Discrete, 168 Email, 180
Disease Names, 168 Embedded Questions, 181
Disjuncts, 169 Em Dash, 155
Display, Monitor, Screen, 169 Emigrate, Immigrate, 181
Disyllabic, 169 Eminent, Imminent, Immanent, 182
Ditransitive Verbs, 169 Emoticons, 182
Ditto Marks, 170 Empathic Forms, 182
Do, Does, Did, 170 Empathy, Sympathy, 183
Dollars and Cents, 171 En Dash, 155
Dollar and Cent Signs, 172
Decimal Points, 173
End Result, 183
Don’t, Doesn’t, 173
Do’s and Don’ts, 174
Engine, Motor, 183
Enough, Not Enough, 184
Double Negatives, 174
Enquire, Inquire, 184
Double Possessives, 175
Ensure, Assure, Insure, 184
Enthuse, Enthusiastic, 184
Download, Upload, 175
Envelop, Envelope, 185
Due to the Fact That, 176
Epistemic Modality, 185
Dynamic Adjectives, 177
Dynamic Verbs, 177
Epizeuxis, 186xii Contents
Equally as Important, 186 Figuratively, 264
Equations, 186 Figure of Speech, 198
Ergative Verbs, 187 Figures, 199
Essentially, 89 Finite Verbs, 200
et al., 188 First Conditional, 200
etc., 188 Fix, Situation, 200
Euphemisms, 189 Flair, Flare, 201
Everyday, 189 Flesch-Kincaid Index, 201
Everyone, Every One, 189 Flier, Flyer, 201
Every Time, 189 Focus Adverb, 201
Except, Unless, 190 Fog Index, 202
Excess, Access, 45 Font, Typeface, 202
Exclamation Point, 190 Foot, Feet, 203
Exclamatory Sentence, 191 Footnotes, Endnotes, 203
Exclusive Adverbs, 191 Forego, Forgo, 203
Existential There, 191 Foreign Words and Phrases, 203
Exit, 344 Forever, For Ever, 204
Exophoric, 192 For, Fore, Four, 204
Expect, 192 Formatting, 204
Expletive Constructions, 193 Formulas, 205
Expository Writing, 193 Forward, Forwards, Foreword, 205
Extranet, 243 Fractions, 206
Extraposition, 194 Fragments, 362
Factitive Verbs, 195 Full Time, Full-time, 206
Faint, 197 Further, 196
Fair, Fare, 195 Fused Sentences, 207
FANBOYS, 196 Future Perfect, 208
Farther, Further, 196 Future Perfect Progressive, 208
Faze, Phase, 196 Future Progressive, 208
Feint, Faint, 197 Gage, Gauge, 209
Female, Woman, 198 Gender, 209
Fewer, Less, 259 Genitive Marker, 209
Few, A Few, 198 Gerund, 210Contents xiii
Gigabyte, 210 Hypophora, 229
Gigahertz, 211 Hypothetical Questions, 229
Glossary, 211 Hysteron Proteron, 229
Gone, Went, 212 Idiolect, 230
Good, Well, 212 Idioms, 230
Got, Gotten, 212 i.e., e.g., 179
Grammatical Hierarchy, 213 If, When, Whether, 230
Gray, Grey, 213 Illicit, Elicit, 179
Guess, 213 Illusion, Allusion, 69
Handicap, Disability, 214 Illustrations, 199
Hard Disk, Hard Drive, 214 I, Me, Myself, 231
Headings and Subheadings, 214 Immanent, Eminent, 182
Helping Verbs, 261 Immigrate, Emigrate, 181
Hendiatris, 216 Imperative Mood, 233
Heteronyms, 217 Imply, Infer, 233
Highlighting, 221 Inanimate Nouns, 233
Hispanic, Latino, Chicano, 118 Inaugurate, 234
Hit, 222 Inchoative Verbs, 234
Homographs, 222 Indefinite Articles, 234
Homonyms, 222 Indefinite Pronouns, 234
Homophones, 224 Independent Clauses, 235
Hypallage, 224 Index, 236
Hyperbaton, 224 Indicative Mood, 238
Hyperbole, 224 Indirect Objects, 238
Hyperlinks, 225 Indirect Speech, 239
Hyphens, 225 Inductive Antonomasia, 239
Line Breaks, 225
Substitute Words, 226
Infinitive Phrase, 240
Compound Adjectives, 226
Inherent and Noninherent
Hyphenated Compound Words, 227
Hyphenated Numbers, 228
Initialisms, Acronyms, 45
Innuendo, 242xiv Contents
In Order to, 242 Latitude, Longitude, 255
Inquire, Enquire, 184 Lay, Lie, 256
In-Sentence Lists, 262 Lay Out, Layout, 257
Inside of, Within, 242 Lead, Led, 258
Insure, Ensure, Assure, 184 Learn, Teach, 258
Intensive Pronouns, 243 Leave, Let, 259
Interjections, 243 Led, Lead, 258
Internet, Intranet, Extranet, 243 Lend, Loan, 265
Interrogative Pronouns, 244 Lessen, Lesson, 259
Interrogative Sentences, 245 Less, Fewer, 259
Intranet, 243 Let, Leave, 269
Intransitive Verbs, 245 Lets, Let’s, 260
Introductory Modifier, 327 Lexical Density, 260
Invite, 246 Liable, Likely, 260
Irony, 246 Lie, Lay, 256
Irregular Plurals, 246 Lighted, Lit, 261
Irregular Spelling, 246 Like, As, 261
Irregular Verbs, 248 Line, 261
Isocolon, 248 Linking Verbs, 261
Italics, 249 Lists, 262
In-Sentence Lists, 262
Its, It’s, 249
Vertical Lists, 263
Numbered Lists, 263
Job Titles, 250
Bulleted Lists, 264
Joint Possessives, 250
Multicolumn Lists, 264
Jr., Sr., 251
Literally, Figuratively, 264
Lit, Lighted, 261
Keyboard Terminology, 252
Little, A Little, 264
Loan, Lend, 265
Kind, Kinds, 254
Log On, Log Off, Logon, Logoff, 265
Kind of, Sort of, 254
Lonely, Alone, 70
Latino, Hispanic, Chicano, 118
Longitude, Latitude, 255
Latin Terms, 36Contents xv
Loose, Lose, 266 Monosyllabic, 277
Lost, Lost Out, 266 Mood, 277
Lots, 267 More Than, Over, 278
Mad, Angry, 268 Morpheme, 278
Margin Notes, 268 Most of All, Almost, 278
Mass Nouns, 268 Motor, Engine, 183
Mathematical Equations, 186 Mouse Terminology, 279
Maybe, May Be, 269 Multicolumn Lists, 264
May, Can, 269 Myself, Me, 231
May, Might, 269 Names, 341
Mean, Median, Average, 86 Negative Adverbs, 280
Megabyte, 270 Negative Formations, 280
Megahertz, 270 Negative Pronouns, 282
Meiosis, 271 Neither, Either, 179
Me, Myself, I, 231 Neologism, 283
Metaphor, 271 Never, 283
Metonymy, 272 Nominal Adjectives, 283
Mfr., Mfg., 272 Nominative Absolutes, 284
Might Could, 272 Nominative Case, 114
Might, May, 269 Nominative Possessives, 284
Might of, Should of, Would of, Noncount Nouns, 268
Could of, 272
Nondefining Relative Clause, 285
Minimal Pairs, 272
Nonfinite Verbs, 285
Misplaced Modifiers, 273
Noninherent Adjectives, 241
Mixed Conditionals, 273
Nonrestrictive Clauses, 286
Mixed Metaphor, 271
Noun Case, 287
Noun Clause, 288
Initial Modifiers, 275
Noun Phrase, 288
Midsentence Modifiers, 276
Noun Plurals, 290
Terminal Modifiers, 276
Combining Modifiers, 276
Nouns of Address, 291
Misplaced Modifiers, 276
Number Abbreviations, 48
Monitor, 169xvi Contents
Paragraph Transitions, 304
Numbered List, 292
Parallel Construction, 304
Numbers or Words, 292
Printed Text and Prose Text, 292
At the Beginning of a Sentence, 293
Legal Documents, 293
Parenthetical Elements, 306
Round Numbers, 293
Sets of Numbers, 293
Participial Phrase, 306
Large Numbers, 294
Parts of Speech, 307
Separating Digits, 294
Passed, Past, 307
Object Complement, 134
Passive Voice, 308
Objective Case, 376
Past Perfect Progressive Tense, 309
Past Perfect Tense, 309
Past Progressive Tense, 309
On Account of, 297
Past Simple Tense, 310
One Another, Each Other, 178
Online, Offline, 298
Perfect Aspect, 311
Perfect Infinitive, 239
Open Compounds, 137
Perfect Tense, 312
Ordinal Numbers, 299
Over, More Than, 278
Oxford Comma, 300
Personal Pronouns, 313
Page Breaks, 301
Persuade, Convince, 150
Page Numbering, 301
Phase, Faze, 196
Page Number Formats, 301
Phatic Speech, 315
Phrasal Verbs, 316
Elements of a Paragraph, 302
Phrases and Words to Omit, 317
Paragraph Development, 303
When to Start a New Paragraph, 304
Pidgin, 318Contents xvii
Plagiarism, 318 Present Progressive Tense, 332
Pleonasm, 318 Present Simple Tense, 333
Pluperfect, 309 Press, Type, Click, Strike, Hit, Select, 333
Plurals, 319 Previous, 334
Plurals of Numbers, 321 Principal, Principle, 334
Plus, 321 Problem Pronouns, 334
I: Nominative Case, Never an
Point in Time, 322
She, He: Nominative Case, Never an
They: Nominative Case, Never an
Possessive Adjectives, 322 We: Nominative Case, Never an
Possessive Case, 114
Me, Us, Her, Him, Them: Objective Case,
Possessive Pronouns, 323
Never a Subject, 336
Proceed, Precede, 324
Posted, Informed, 324
Progressive Verbs, 337
Precede, Proceed, 324
Pronouns and Antecedent
Proper Adjectives, 341
Proper Nouns, 341
Prepositional Phrase, 327
Question Mark, 342
Question Types, 343
Time: At, On, In, For, and Since, 328
Place: At, On, In, 329
Quit, Exit, 344
Location: At, On, In, 329
Quotation Marks, 344
Movement: To, Toward, 330
Quotations within Quotations, 345
Quotations for Titles, 345
Present Infinitive, 239
Quotation Marks and Punctuation, 345
Present Participle, 332
Raise, Rise, 347
Present Perfect Tense, 332
Rational, Rationale, 347xviii Contents
Real, 347 Sensor, Censor, 117
Reciprocal Pronouns, 348 Sentence, 362
Recur, Reoccur, 348 Sentence Fragments, 362
Redundancy, 348 Sentence Subject, 363
Reflexive Pronouns, 349 Sentence Types, 364
Regard, Regards, 350 Sentence Variety, 365
Regular Verbs, 350 Setup, Set Up, 367
Relative Adverbs, 351 Sexist Language, 407
Relative Clauses, 351 Shall, Will, 367
Relative Pronouns, 352 Shape, 368
Reoccur, 348 Should, Must, 368
Reported Speech, 353 Should of, 272
Restrictive Clauses, 353 Should, Would, 368
Resultative Adjective, 354 Shut Down, Shutdown, 369
Resumptive Modifier, 354 Sic, 369
Rhetorical Question, 354 Sign In, Sign Out, Sign On, Sign Up, 370
Rhyme, 355 Simile, 370
Right, Business, 100 Since, Because, 90
Right-click, 279 Singular, 370
Rise, Raise, 347 Sit, Set, 370
Roman Numerals, 355 Site, Sight, Cite, 119
Root, Rout, Route, 357 Slang, 371
Run, 357 Slash, 371
And/Or Combinations, 371
Run-On Sentences, 207
Indicating Other Relationships, 372
Small Caps, 373
Software Menus and Commands, 373
Solidus, 374, 371
Screen Terminology, 359
Some, Any, 78
Second Conditional, 361
Sometime, Some Time, 374
Sort of, Kind of, 254
Spaces After Periods, 374
Semiweekly, Semimonthly, 95Contents xix
Split Infinitive, 374 Than I, Than Me, 395
Sr., Jr., 251 Than, Then, 396
Stative Adjective, 375 That, Which, 396
Stative Verb, 338 There, Their, They’re, 397
Subheadings, 214 Third Conditional, 397
Subject, 375 Time, 398
Subject Complement, 134
Time Zones, 399
Subjective Case, 376
Titled, Entitled, 399
Subjective Pronouns, 376
Subject-Verb Agreement, 376
Formatting the Title of a
Subject-Verb Inversion, 380
Submittal, Submission, 381
To, At, 401
Subordinate Clause, 381
Subordinating Conjunctions, 382
Topic Sentence, 402
Summative Modifier, 385
Toward, Towards, 402
Transitional Expressions, 403
Symbols and Special Characters, 386
Repeating Key Words, 404
Sympathy, Empathy, 183
Pronoun Reference, 404
Transitive Verb, 405
Table of Contents, 388
Try and, Come and, Be Sure and, 405
Type, Enter, 406
Tag Question, 391
Typeface, Font, 202
Take, Bring, 99
Unbiased Language, 407
Sexist Language, 407
Teach, Learn, 258
Uncountable Noun, 408
Telephone Numbers, 392
Until, By, 102
Upload, Download, 175xx Contents
Uppercase, 409 Web Pages, Web Site, 419
URL, 410 Weights and Measures, 419
U.S., 410 Well, Good, 212
Used to, 411 Went, Gone, 212
Utterance, 411 When, Whether, 230
Vain, Vane, Vein, 412 Where, 420
Verbal Phrase, 412 Whether or Not, 420
Verb Complement, 134 Which, 420
Verb Forms, 413 Who’s, Whose, 421
Verb Group, 413 Who, Which, 421
Verbiage, 413 Who, Whom, 421
Verb Mood, 414 Will, Shall, 367
Verbose Expressions, 414 Within, Inside of, 242
Verbs, 415 Woman, Female, 198
Verb Tense, 416 Wonder, Wander, 418
Versus, vs., 416 Word Classes, 422
Vertical Lists, 262 Words or Figures, 292
Visually Impaired, Blind, 417 Wordy Expressions, 414
Voice, 417 Would of, 272
Voice Mail, 417 Would, Should, 368
Vowels, 417 Xmas, Christmas, 423
Wait On, 418 Yes/No Questions, 423
Wander, Wonder, 418 Zero Article, 423
Web, 418 Zero Conditional, 424
Weblog, 95 Zeugma, 424
Zip Code, 424Contents xxi
Sample Business Documents
Abstracts, 427 Job Offer Letter, 505
Acceptance Letter, 429 Meeting Agenda, 507
Acknowledgment Letter, 431 Meeting Minutes, 508
Corporate Minutes, 508
Adjustment Letter, 433
Corporate Resolutions, 509
Announcement Letter, 435
Annual Report, 437
Mission Statements, 512
Application Letter, 444
Newsletter Articles, 515
Business Letter, 451
Business Letter Writing Style, 454
Business Letter Format, 454 Permission Letter, 521
Business Plan, 459 Policies, Rules, or Guidelines, 524
Collection Letter, 468 PowerPoint Presentations, 526
Planning a Presentation, 528
Commendation Letter, 470
Press Releases, 531
Complaint Letter, 472
Cover Letters, 474
Progress Reports, 536
Questionnaires and Surveys, 551
Endorsement Letter, 480
Reference Letters, 555
Fund-Raising Letter, 486 Refusal Letter, 557
Grant Proposals, 488 Reports, 559
Memorandum Report, 559
Letter Report, 559
Short Report, 559
Inquiry Letter, 500
Formal Report, 560
Job Descriptions, 503
(See page xxiii for a list of sample documents figures.)xxii Contents
Request Letters, 571 Summaries, 598
Research Report, 573 Termination of Employment Letter, 602
Resignation Letter, 576 Training Manual, 604
Résumés, 578 Trip Report, 618
Sales Letters, 582 User Guide, 619
Seasonal Correspondence, 586 Warning Letter, 626
Specifications, 588 Web Sites, 628
Speeches and Oral Presentations, 592 White Papers, 631LIST OF BUSINESS DOCUMENTS FIGURES
Figure 3.1: Descriptive Abstract, 428 Figure 3.28: Notary Form for an
Figure 3.2: Informative Abstract, 428
Figure 3.29: Notary Form for a
Figure 3.3: Acceptance Letter, 430
Figure 3.4: Acknowledgment Letter, 432
Figure 3.30: Notary Form for a
Figure 3.5: Adjustment Letter, 434
Figure 3.6: Announcement Letter, 436
Figure 3.31: Fund-Raising Letter, 487
Figure 3.7: Annual Report Cover Page, 439
Figure 3.32: Grant Proposal , 490
Figure 3.8: Annual Report Table of
Figure 3.33: Instructions, 497
Figure 3.34: Introduction, 499
Figure 3.9: Annual Report Letter from
Figure 3.35: Inquiry Letter, 502
the Chairman, 441
Figure 3.36: Job Description, 504
Figure 3.10: Annual Report Organizational
Overview, 442 Figure 3.37: Job Offer Letter, 506
Figure 3.11: Annual Report Overview of Figure 3.38: Meeting Agenda, 507
Organization’s Performance, 443
Figure 3.39: Meeting Minutes, 510
Figure 3.12: Application Letter, 445
Figure 3.40: Memo, 512
Figure 3.13: Brochure, 449
Figure 3.41: Mission Statement, 513
Figure 3.14: Brochure, 450
Figure 3.42: Newsletter, 515
Figure 3.15: Parts of a Business Letter, 453
Figure 3.43: Newsletter Article, 516
Figure 3.16: Block Letter, 455
Figure 3.44: Note, 518
Figure 3.17: Modified Bock Letter, 456
Figure 3.45: Tip, 518
Figure 3.18: Modified Semiblock Letter, 457
Figure 3.46: Warning Notice, 519
Figure 3.19: Simplified Letter, 458
Figure 3.47: Caution Notice, 519
Figure 3.20: Business Plan, 461
Figure 3.48: Danger Notice, 520
Figure 3.21: Collection Letter, 469
Figure 3.49: Permission Letter Granting
Figure 3.22: Commendation Letter, 471 Permission , 522
Figure 3.23: Complaint Letter, 473 Figure 3.50: Permission Letter Requesting
Permission , 523
Figure 3.24: Cover Letter, 475
Figure 3.51: Policy, 525
Exhibit 3.25: Directive, 477
Figure 3.52: Slide with Bulleted Lists,
Figure 3.26: Endorsement Letter, 481
a Graphical Background, and
Figure 3.27: Contract, 484
xxiiixxiv List of Business Documents
Figure 3.53: Slide with Title, Bulleted Figure 3.79: Summary, 599
Subtitle, and Pie Chart, 530
Figure 3.80: Termination Letter, 603
Figure 3.54: Slide with PowerPoint
Figure 3.81: Instructor-Led Training
Figure 3.55: Slide with Graphics Rather
Exhibit 3.82: Self-Study Training
Than Text, 530
Figure 3.56: Press Release, 532
Figure 3.83: Training Manual Cover, 608
Figure 3.57: Procedures, 535
Figure 3.84: Training Manual Table of
Figure 3.58: Progress Report, 537 Contents, 609
Figure 3.59: Proposal for Video Production Figure 3.85: Training Manual Getting-Started
Services, 541 Page, 610
Figure 3.60: Survey, 554 Figure 3.86: Training Manual Quiz, 611
Figure 3.61: Reference Letter, 556 Figure 3.87: Training Manual Course
Figure 3.62: Refusal Letter, 558
Figure 3.88: Training Manual Course
Figure 3.63: Heading Numbering
Figure 3.89: Training Manual Lesson
Figure 3.64: Report Cover, 566
Contents and Objectives, 614
Figure 3.65: Report Transmittal Letter, 567
Figure 3.90: Training Manual Table
Figure 3.66: Report Table of Contents, 568
Figure 3.67: Report List of Figures, 569
Figure 3.91: Training Manual
Figure 3.68: Report Body, 570
Figure 3.69: Request Letter, 572
Figure 3.92: Training Manual Group
Figure 3.70: Analytical Research Activity, 617
Figure 3.93: Trip Report, 618
Figure 3.71: Resignation Letter, 577
Figure 3.94: Online User Guide, 620
Figure 3.72: Chronological Format
Figure 3.95: User Guide Tutorial, 621
Figure 3.96: User Guide Cover, 622
Figure 3.73: Skills Format Résumé, 581
Figure 3.97: User Guide Instructions, 623
Figure 3.74: Sales Letter, 584
Figure 3.98: User Guide Reference
Figure 3.75: Sales Letter, 585
Figure 3.76: Seasonal Correspondence, 587
Figure 3.99: User Guide Quick Start, 625
Figure 3.77: Specifications, 591
Figure 3.100: Warning Letter, 627
Figure 3.78: Speech by John F.
Figure 3.101: Web Site, 630
Figure 3.102: White Paper, 632I N T RODUC T ION
The AMA Handbook of Business Writing is a desktop job aid for all corpo-
rate communicators. The book is a collection of easy-to-find information on
style, grammar, usage, punctuation, language construction, formatting, and
In writing three editions of the Administrative Assistant’s and Secretary’s
Handbook, we have done extensive research on language usage. In addition,
we are the founders of a corporate communications consulting business with
over 25 years’ experience working for many Fortune 500 companies like
IBM, AT&T, Sony, Chevron, Hewlett Packard, and Cox Enterprises. In our
work, we’ve developed hundreds of business documents including Web
sites, brochures, reports, presentations, marketing plans, policy manuals,
video programs, software tutorials, and training materials. In The AMA
Handbook of Business Writing, we take the best of these corporate business
writing guidelines and organize them in a way corporate writers will find
We’ve written the book so you can easily find information on a particular
topic and quickly get back to your writing project. We have alphabetized
most of the book and included cross-references to assist you in finding alter-
natively worded entries.
The book is organized into three sections:
■ Section 1: The Writing Process
■ Section 2: The Business Writer’s Alphabetical Reference
■ Section 3: Sample Business Documents
The book also includes a detailed table of contents and index that will assist
you in quickly finding what you are seeking.
The Sample Business Documents section includes guidelines, tips, and a
wide variety of business documents, including annual reports, brochures,
business letters, business plans, grant proposals, mission statements,
newsletters, policies, press releases, proposals, résumés, surveys, speeches,
training manuals, user guides, and white papers.
We believe The AMA Handbook of Business Writing is an essential desk ref-
erence for the following business writers:
■ Corporate communications writers and managers
■ Marketing writers and managers
■ Human resources administrators and managers
■ Sales representatives and managers
■ Training developers and managers
■ Technical writers
■ Grant writers
■ Public relations writers
■ Administrative assistantsA C K N OWLE D G M E NTS
In writing this book, we referenced many sources to confirm guidelines we
used throughout our professional careers while working with a variety of
Fortune 500 companies. In addition, we used our own book, the
Administrative Assistant’s and Secretary’s Handbook, as a source for content
on language usage, grammar, and punctuation. We therefore thank James
Stroman, who coauthored the Administrative Assistant’s and Secretary’s
The following is a list of sources we referenced while writing this book to
confirm the accuracy of our content:
James Stroman, Kevin Wilson, and Jennifer Wauson, The Administrative
Assistant’s and Secretary’s Handbook, 3rd ed. (New York: AMACOM
Microsoft Corporation Editorial Style Board, Microsoft Manual of Style for
Technical Publications, 3rd ed. (Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press,
David A. McMurrey, Online Technical Writing, 2009.
also David A. McMurrey, Power Tools for Technical Communication
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Center for Writing
Purdue University. The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), 2009.
UsingEnglish.com, English Glossary of Grammar Terms, 2009.
xxviiThis page intentionally left blank S ECTI O N
The Writing ProcessThis page intentionally left blank Section 1 The Writing Process 3
When planning to write a business document, the most important considera-
tion is to understand your audience.You must adapt your writing to the needs
and interests of the audience.
For most business documents, the audience falls into one of the following
■ Subject matter experts—individuals who know the content completely
and who focus on the details
■ Technologists—people who manufacture, operate, and maintain
products and services and who have a firm practical knowledge
■ Management—people who make decisions about whether to produce
and market products and services but who have little technical
knowledge about the details
■ General audience—people who may know about a product or service
but who have little technical knowledge about the details
Another way to analyze your audience is to consider its characteristics:
■ What are their background, education, and experience?
■ Does your writing have to start with the basics, or can you work at
a more advanced level?
Example: If you are writing about a Windows-based software product,
can you assume the audience already has a basic understanding of
Windows, how to use a mouse, and so forth?
■ What will the audience expect and need from your document?
■ How will your document be used?
■ Will users read it cover to cover or just skim the high points?
■ Will they use your document as a reference to look up information
when it is needed?
■ What are the demographics of your audience?
■ Consider the age, sex, location, and other characteristics of your
audience.4 The AMA Handbook of Business Writing
Your writing may have more than one audience or an audience with a wide
variety of backgrounds. With an audience of both experts and laypeople, it is
best to organize your document into sections with easy-to-understand head-
ings so that the individual users can find the areas that interest them. You
may need to off-load the more technical information to an appendix.
Once you have analyzed your audience, you need to adapt your document to
conform to its interests and needs.
■ You may need to add information.
■ You may need to omit information.
■ You may need to add examples to help readers understand.
■ You may need to write to a lower or higher level.
■ You may need to include background information.
■ You may need to strengthen transitions between sentences,
paragraphs, and sections.
■ You may need to write longer introductions and clearer topic sentences.
■ You may need to change your sentence style.
■ You may need change the type of graphics used.
■ You may need to add cross-references.
■ You may need to organize your content into headings with lists.
■ You may need to use special fonts, font sizes, font styles, and
line spacing for emphasis.
Brainstorming by jotting down notes is a great way to gather content ideas
for a writing project.
■ Don’t worry about the order of the ideas.
■ Let one idea lead you to other related ideas.Section 1 The Writing Process 5
■ Browse the Web to generate ideas.
■ Review magazines, journals, and periodical indexes for ideas.
■ Use free association to let your mind roam freely throughout the sub-
■ Use free association while commuting, while riding a bike, while walk-
ing, or even while taking a shower.
■ Keep a pen and notepad or a digital recorder nearby.
As you think about the subject matter, consider the following angles:
■ Are there any problems or needs?
■ Is there a cause-and-effect relationship?
■ What are the solutions to the problems?
■ What is the history of the subject matter?
■ What processes are involved?
■ What needs to be described to readers?
■ How can the subject matter be divided into smaller pieces?
■ Are any comparisons involved?
■ What needs to be illustrated with a graphic or photograph?
■ How is the subject matter applied?
■ Can you list any advantages and benefits?
■ What are the disadvantages and limitations?
■ Are there any warnings, cautions, tips, or guidelines?
■ What are the financial implications of the subject matter?
■ What is its importance?
■ What does the future likely hold?
■ What are the social, political, and legal implications of the subject
■ Can you draw any conclusions about the subject matter?6 The AMA Handbook of Business Writing
■ Do you have any recommendations?
■ What are the alternatives to the subject matter?
■ What tests and methods are used?
■ Can you use relevant statistics?
■ Are there any legal issues?
■ Should you consider applicable business situations?
After brainstorming, the next step is to narrow the list of ideas to the scope
of the project.
■ How does each brainstorm idea apply to your audience?
■ Will your audience care about each brainstorming item?
■ Does the idea help your audience understand the topic?
■ Could you eliminate one or more ideas without sacrificing anything?
■ Is the idea too general, too technical, or not technical enough?
After narrowing the list of topics, decide how to cover each and determine
how to obtain the content details.
■ Research online.
■ Talk to subject matter experts.
■ Use reference books.
■ Test and evaluate the product or service yourself.
■ Get testimonials from customers or users.
■ Conduct tests.
■ Record demonstrations using software or video.
For the narrowed list of topics, determine the audience level for each:
■ Determine which topics apply to all audiences and should be more
■ Determine which topics apply to individual audiences and should
be more specific, include more details, or used to create separate
audience-specific documents.Section 1 The Writing Process 7
The research phase of a business writing project consists of:
■ Reviewing existing publications, periodicals, Web sites, and company
■ Evaluating products and services
■ Conducting tests of products and services
■ Running tests
■ Studying users
■ Interviewing experts
■ Conducting surveys using questionnaires or observations
Traditional print sources used in research include anything published in print
form that is available in libraries and bookstores:
■ Scholarly journals
■ Trade publications
Materials available for research purposes on the Internet include:
■ Web pages and blogs
■ PDF documents
■ Video and audio
■ Online versions of print publications
■ Press releases
■ Message boards
■ Discussion lists8 The AMA Handbook of Business Writing
■ Chat rooms
■ Web-based government reports
When searching for information at a library or on the Internet:
■ Make a list of keywords related to your subject matter that will likely
produce search results.
■ Use the Library of Congress subject headings to search for keywords.
■ Check Books in Print by subjects for any related keywords.
■ Check the Reader’s Guide to Periodic Literature for related articles.
■ Use Google Scholar at www.scholar.google.com to search for articles
across many disciplines and sources.
■ Check the New York Times Index for relevant newspaper articles.
■ Check a general encyclopedia for information about your topic.
Keep a list of the sources used in your research in order to document them
in footnotes, endnotes, and a bibliography.
■ Keep your notes organized on note cards or in a word processor.
■ For research from books, include the title, authors, city of publication,
publisher, date of publication, and the pages for specific quotes and
■ For research from magazines, include the title of the article, the
magazine’s name, the issue date, and beginning and ending page
numbers of the article.
■ For encyclopedia articles, include the title, edition number, date of
publication, and the author’s name.
■ For government documents, include notes about the department,
administration, or agency name, along with any cataloging number.
■ For private sources of research from interviews, make notes about
the date of the communication, the source’s full name, title, and
When making notes from your research sources, you can record any of the
following:Section 1 The Writing Process 9
■ A few sentences or some statistics
■ Direct quotes from a publication
■ Paraphrased information in your own words
■ Summaries that condense the main ideas in an article
Interviews with subject matter experts, customers, end users, and members
of your general audience provide you with insight and testimonials for use in
your writing project.
Interviews can be conducted in a number of ways:
■ In focus groups
■ By telephone
■ In a computer chat
■ Via email
■ On a message board
■ By means of a discussion list
■ By mail
Interviews that are conducted face-to-face or on the telephone can be record-
ed with the interviewee’s permission and later transcribed.
■ In informal conversational interviews, interview questions often flow
from the context of the discussion.
■ Structured interviews follow a checklist to make sure all relevant topics
are covered, and the interviewer may ask impromptu questions based
on the answers.
■ In an open-ended interview, open-ended questions are asked, allowing
the subject to share opinions and ideas.10 The AMA Handbook of Business Writing
When asking interview questions, consider the following:
■ Ask clear questions whose language makes sense to the interviewees.
■ Ask one question at a time, rather than multipart questions.
■ Ask opened-ended questions with no predetermined answers.
■ Ask questions about interviewees’ experience with the subject matter
before asking for their opinions on it.
■ Order the questions from general to specific, from broad to narrow.
■ Ask probing and follow-up questions when a different level of
response or detail is needed.
■ Be able to interpret the answers and clarify the responses to confirm
that what you heard is what the interviewee meant.
■ Avoid sensitive or deep questions that may irritate the interviewee.
■ Allow free-form discussion, but keep the interview session under
control by having a checklist of questions you want to ask.
■ Establish and maintain a rapport with the interviewee through attentive
listening, purposeful voice tone, and responsive expressions and
Outlines are useful in the writing process as a strategy for brainstorming and
the logical ordering of content.An outline lists the headings and subheadings
for various topics and ideas. Several levels of subheadings may be used to
To create an outline:
■ Determine the purpose of the document.
■ Determine the audience.
■ Brainstorm ideas to include in the document.
■ Organize the ideas by grouping similar ones together.Section 1 The Writing Process 11
■ Determine a logical order for the ideas.
■ Label the groups of ideas for use as headings and subheadings in the
In the most common outline format, numbers or letters are assigned to each
level of heading or subheading. For example:
I. Roman numerals
A. Capitalized letters
1. Arabic numerals
a. Lowercase letters
Keep the following ideas in mind when creating an outline:
■ Use parallel structure for headings and subheadings.
■ Heading content at the same level should be equally significant.
■ A heading can contain just a few words or an entire sentence.
■ Each heading should have at least two or more items of subordinated
content or subheadings.
■ Headings should be general, and subheadings should be more specific.
I. Introducing the transactional Web site
A. What is a transactional Web site?
B. Who uses this type of Web site?
II. Finding a transactional Web hosting service
A. Bandwidth pricing
B. Shopping cart service
C. Credit card merchant service
III. Typical Web transactions
C. Downloadable software
D. Products12 The AMA Handbook of Business Writing
WRITING A DRAFT
After completing the prewriting stages of audience analysis, brainstorming,
research, interviewing, and outlining, you can begin the writing process by
creating a first draft. Start by copying your research notes into the related
sections of your outline. Phrase your notes as complete sentences, and fill in
the gaps with transitions and other commentary. As you work on your first
draft, keep the following tips in mind:
■ Add introductions and conclusions to the various sections of the
■ Don’t worry about choosing the best wording when writing your draft;
you’ll have an opportunity to read and rewrite later.
■ If you get stuck on a section, leave it and move on to the next one.
■ If you don’t like how a particular section sounds, keep writing and
revise it later.
■ Write notes to yourself with ideas for additional content or revisions
using a different-colored font or highlighting tool.
After completing the first draft, look for ways to improve it by proofreading
BUSINESS WRITING STYLE
The overall tone of a business document, as seen through the choice of words
and commentary, reflects the writer’s attitude. Business writers must consid-
er the overall tone of their messages, whether they are writing a letter or a
To decide on the appropriate tone for your documents, make sure you can
answer the following questions:
■ Why am I writing this document?
■ For whom am I writing it?Section 1 The Writing Process 13
■ What do I want the readers to understand?
The overall tone of a business document should be confident, courteous, and
sincere. It should use nondiscriminatory language and be written at the
appropriate level for the audience. In addition, your writing should focus on
the benefits to the reader. To write with the appropriate tone:
■ Be knowledgeable and prepared so that readers will accept your ideas.
■ Be persuasive so that readers will follow your instructions.
■ Don’t be arrogant or presumptuous.
■ Strive for politeness with sincerity to avoid sounding condescending.
■ Consider your word choices and think about how the reader will
■ Use strategies to emphasize key points by using short sentences,
placing key points at the beginning of paragraphs, and positioning
subordinate information in the middle of paragraphs.
■ Use the active voice to describe what a reader should do, and use the
passive voice to describe actions being performed.
■ Avoid language that is sexist or biased based on race, ethnicity,
religion, age, sexual orientation, or disability.
■ Write from your readers’ perspective and clearly explain the benefits
■ Use language and details that are appropriate to the target audience’s
level of understanding.
Visuals in a business document should support the text and avoid confusing
the reader. Visuals are a part of the overall message and should be used to
communicate important ideas. When creating and placing visuals, keep the
following in mind:14 The AMA Handbook of Business Writing
■ Readers must be able to understand a figure without having to read any
of the surrounding text.
■ Introduce all figures by referring to them in the text.
■ Place visuals in a logical place close to the reference text.
■ Charts with content of interest only to specific audiences should be
saved for an appendix.
■ Visuals should not repeat the content of the text.
■ Never use charts to distort research findings.
■ Be aware of what multicolored images and graphs will look like in
black and white.
Statistical information can be presented in tables or graphs. Graphs in partic-
ular help the reader conceptualize information that is not as easily seen in
tabular form. Graphs can display the relationships between sets of data.
When creating graphs:
■ Don’t overly complicate graphs with grid lines and data points.
■ Use line graphs to show a relationship between two values.
■ Employ pie charts to show a relationship between multiple values that
make up a whole.
■ Utilize bar charts to show comparisons, distributions, and trends.
■ Use pictographs like bar charts but with symbols to make up each bar.
■ Use organizational charts to show the hierarchy of an organization.
■ Employ flowcharts to show the steps in a process.
A variety of other types of illustrations can be used effectively in business
■ Diagrams show the structures, mechanisms, or organisms that make up
■ Drawings depict an object or organism.
■ Maps show geographic, demographic, agricultural, or weather data.
■ Photographs present realistic views of a subject.Section 1 The Writing Process 15
Page design involves the use of typographical elements and formatting tech-
niques to lay out content in a pleasing way that helps communicate the mes-
sage. Page design involves the use of the following:
■ Fonts and color
■ Font styles
■ Graphical elements
The first step in creating a page design for a document using a word proces-
sor is the document setup:
■ Setting the page size
■ Setting the margins
■ Creating paragraph styles
■ Customizing the color pallet
■ Selecting a document template
The text used in a document can take on many different forms.You can apply
different fonts, font colors, styles (bold, italic, underlined), and paragraph
styles (block, paragraph, hanging). Text can be organized visually on the
page by using headings and lists. When formatting text on a page:
■ Make headings descriptive of the content that follows.
■ Use different font styles and margins for headings to make them
stand out.16 The AMA Handbook of Business Writing
■ Use parallel wording for all headings on the same level.
■ Use numbered lists for things that must be done in a specified order.
■ Use bulleted lists for items when no particular order is required.
■ Introduce all lists with a lead-in sentence.
■ Punctuate list items with a period only if they are complete sentences.
■ Use font styles, such as bold or italic, for emphasis.
■ Indent paragraph margins for emphasis.
■ Use different font colors for headings for artistic design purposes.
■ Use fonts for headings that are different from the text font.
■ Use background shading and light-colored text for table column
Publication design involves creating and organizing the components of a
business document. The components vary depending on whether the docu-
ment is a letter, brochure, or report. No single publication uses all the possi-
ble publication components. Nor is there a single style guide for how these
components should be used and organized, because style varies depending
on the needs and requirements of the individual business.
The following publication design components are commonly used in busi-
■ Front and back covers—the organization’s name, publication title,
logo or artwork, and date
■ Title page—information on the front cover that is often duplicated on
the title page
■ Edition notices—publication edition, publication date, and copyright
notice, included on the backside of the title page
■ Disclaimers—legal wording included as part of the edition notices on
the backside of the title page, stating the document may not be free
from errorsSection 1 The Writing Process 17
■ Trademark lists—a list of trademarks used in the document, a separate
element or part of the edition notices
■ Warranties—additional legal wording regarding the company’s prod-
ucts or services, sometimes on a separate page
■ Safety notices—publications about products, possibly including a sum-
mary of all safety warnings found elsewhere in the publication
■ Communication statements—statements required by government regu-
■ Preface—a brief passage that describes the content and purpose of the
publication as well as the target audience, included just before the table
■ Table of contents—a list of chapters and of at least a second level of
heading detail, included so that readers can find information they need
when using the publication as a reference
■ List of figures—a list of all the figures used in the publication, along
with their caption titles
■ Content chapters—the actual text of the publication, possibly organized
as chapters, topics, and sections
■ Appendixes—details and content that is only suitable for subsections
of your audience and that is included at the end of the publication
■ Glossary—a list of specialized terms, along with their definitions,
positioned at the end of the publication
■ Index—references to specific topics and terms, along with page
■ Reader response form—a document that readers can fill out to provide
feedback and to ask questions
Editing consists of reading a draft document, checking for errors, rewriting
sentences, adding missing content, and deleting unnecessary content. You
can use word processing grammar and spelling checkers to point out poten-18 The AMA Handbook of Business Writing
tial problems, but don’t rely on these tools in place of a thorough editing and
proofreading. During the editing process, keep the following principles in
■ To be verbs (is, was, were, etc.) should be replaced with strong active
Example: The form was filed by Allan.
Revision: Allan filed the report.
■ Rewrite the excessive use of prepositions.
Example: The company’s annual report is overshadowed by the
company’s feeling of dread over the upcoming legislation pending
in their state government.
Revision: A feeling of dread over the upcoming state government
legislation pervaded the company’s annual report.
■ Eliminate words that add no meaning or are redundant.
Example: He carelessly and nonchalantly tossed the confidential
report into the nonsecure trash bin.
Revision: He carelessly tossed the confidential report into the
nonsecure trash bin.
■ Vary sentence structure and sentence length.
■ Don’t start every sentence with the main subject followed by a verb.
■ If there are too many sentences of the same length, rewrite them into
Example: I stopped checking my email when I went on vacation.
There were over 300 messages waiting for me when I returned.
Revision: Because I did not check email while on vacation, over 300
messages were waiting when I returned.Section 1 The Writing Process 19
■ Add transitional words and phrases to connect sentences and show a
relationship between sentences and paragraphs.
Example: The copier on our floor broke. I went down to the copy
center in the basement to copy the report.
Revision: The copier on our floor broke. So I went down to the copy
center in the basement to copy the report.
Use the following checklist when editing a document:
■ Are the headings and subheadings consistently used?
■ Is the spelling correct?
■ Are all proper names accurate?
■ Are all lists parallel in structure?
■ Do all nouns and verbs agree?
■ Are numbered lists correctly numbered?
■ Are all dates correct?
■ Are all alphabetical lists in alphabetical order?
■ Is all punctuation correct and consistent?
■ Is all capitalization correct and consistent?
■ Are all bibliographical references accurate and consistent?
Proofreading is the checking of your documents for grammar, spelling, and
punctuation, as well as for accuracy with respect to the edited version and
adherence to style. If someone else proofreads your documents, the reader
notes any needed corrections using proofreading marks and abbreviations.
Figure 1.1 lists the standard proofreading symbols and abbreviations.20 The AMA Handbook of Business Writing
Figure 1.1 Proofreading SymbolsSection 1 The Writing Process 21
Use the following checklist when proofreading a document:
■ Are all headings and other text elements consistent in style and layout?
■ For letters, are the dateline, reference line, initials, enclosure, and
carbon-copy notation accurate?
■ Are all cross-references accurate?
■ Are all margins consistent and proper?
■ Are all tables aligned consistently?
■ Have any footnotes been omitted?
■ Are all end-of-line word divisions accurate?
■ Are any words accidentally repeated in the same sentence or
■ Are the page numbers correct?
■ Are all headings and captions separate elements, that is, on lines by
Rather than make edits on paper, you can make edits electronically in a word
processing document using the Track Changes feature (in Microsoft Word).
The revisions show up in a different color. When you proofread the docu-
ment, you can review each revision and either accept or reject it.22 The AMA Handbook of Business Writing
Prior to its release or publication, a document should be reviewed by subject
matter experts, management, or your peers. The purpose of this review is to
evaluate the document, criticize it, and suggest improvements. Writers are
often uneasy about having their documents reviewed out of fear their egos
will be bruised. People who are asked to review a document are also often
uneasy about offering criticism. Prior to the review, the writer should meet
with the reviewers and discuss the following points:
■ The writer’s goals and concerns for the document including its topic,
audience, and purpose
■ Potential problems and concerns uncovered during the writing process
■ Questions about accuracy that subject matter experts need to answer
When asked to review another writer’s document, review the document sev-
eral times and look for:
■ Grammar, spelling, and punctuation issues
■ Appropriate tone and level for the target audience
■ Organization of the content
■ Clarity of the writing
■ Sentence style
■ Use of graphics
When offering feedback, avoid making criticisms based on your own writ-
ing style. Instead, do the following:
■ Base your comments on guidelines, concepts, and rules.
■ Document your comments in the margins of the review copy or on
a separate document.
■ Provide specific details to explain your comments.
■ Offer suggestions for correcting any problems you see.
■ Avoid going overboard and rewriting the draft completely.Section 1 The Writing Process 23
In the revision process, you rewrite content to make improvements to the
language, level of clarity, content organization, and tone that may be the
result of a reviewer’s comments or your own review.As you revise your doc-
ument, consider the following questions:
■ Have you adequately defined all the key terms used in the document?
■ Do some things in the document, such as products, services, or people,
need to be described in more detail?
■ Do some processes in the document need more description?
■ Do you need to add analogies or comparisons to make a particular
concept easier to understand?
■ Does the document have subcategories of information that need their
own subheadings and introductory sentences?
■ Is the content in the correct order?
■ Have you provided sufficient examples?
■ Do you need to provide more historical background to help readers
better understand the content?
■ Have you provided any necessary instructions in the correct step-by-
■ Do you need to insert overviews at key points to summarize topics?
■ Do you need to add topic sentences that introduce new topics?
■ Do the transitions between paragraphs and topics allow the ideas to
logically flow from one to another?
■ Do you need to break long paragraphs into shorter ones?
■ Do you need to rewrite redundant or wordy phrases?
■ Do you need to rewrite passive sentences in the active voice?
■ Are there any subject-verb mismatches in your sentences?
■ Are there series of sentences that are either all the sa