Is a lot singular or plural?

Is a lot singular or plural? The answer is “It can be either.” A lot can modify a noun, giving an indefinite idea of quantity. But it can be used on its own as an indefinite pronoun. Both of the following are correct: There is a lot of bread or There are a lot of […]

The link between cursive writing and reading ability

link between cursive writing and reading ability

The following is a translation of an article that appeared in the August 2013 issue of the French science magazine Science & Vie. Images, pull quotes, inset boxes, and sidebar illustrations from the article (along with their accompanying text) have been omitted. Students Should Keep Writing by Hand In the United States, children are encouraged […]

Synonyms galore even in French science articles

Giant sequoias and other large trees are described as colosses végétales in a recent Science & Vie article.

While reading an article in the most recent issue of the French magazine Science & Vie, I was struck by the number of synonyms that the writer used for grands arbres (“large trees”). I can’t recall ever reading a similar article in English with as many alternate ways of describing the article’s subject. The article, […]

Why Good Copy Is Good Business: Insights and tips for effective business writing

Why Good Copy Is Good Business We’re pleased to announce the distribution of RedLine’s first white paper. The document, titled Why Good Copy Is Good Business: An Overview of Best Practices for Written Communications, is primarily for small business owners who write their own marketing materials (web copy, newsletters, brochures, etc.). The paper offers advice […]

In remembrance: Mary Lou Decossaux

Mary Lou Decossaux, 1957 - 2011

Mary Lou Decossaux: Advocate and Mentor In late 2011, Mary Lou Decossaux, founder of the Neighborhood Resource Center in Richmond, Virginia, passed away. A tireless advocate for women, low-income families, and children, Decossaux believed that all people have a responsibility to contribute in a positive way to their community. These contributions can, over time, transform […]

Business Writing Workshop in Grand Rapids


Writing Tips 101: A Business Writing Workshop Date: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 Time: 7:30 am – 9 am Location: Color House Graphics 3505 Eastern Ave. SE Grand Rapids, MI 49508 View Larger Map Presenter: Matthew Kushinka, Principal, RedLine Language Services LLC Cost: $15 at the door; $10 in advance; $10 for LinkedUp Grand Rapids members […]

Be specific when you write

be specific when you write

Generally speaking, be specific How can you be specific when you write? And why should you use specific language? For the “how,” see our tips on using specific language in your writing. For the “why,” consider a quote from George Bernard Shaw: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken […]

Use the active voice to improve your writing

Using the passive voice doesn't mean you're Stalin, but it does shift responsibility off you and onto some unnamed person or thing.

Use the active voice to make your writing clear. You can also use the active voice in your speech to take responsibility for your actions. How to use the active voice: What is it? The active voice shows that the subject of the sentence does the verb’s action. Consider the following examples: We serve dinner […]

When to use the passive voice

when to use the passive voice

Do you know when to use the passive voice? This post explains when to use the passive voice and provides example sentences. Good writers prefer the active voice. It makes writing clear and allows speakers to take responsibility for their actions. See why you should use the active voice most of the time.   However, […]

Use the right words

use the right words

What are the right words? As advice goes, “use the right words” isn’t very profound. It sounds obvious. But it is surprisingly hard to do, especially for those who don’t write for a living but have to write as part of their job. At the very least, the right words are those that fit the […]

Embarrassing typos and how to catch them

embarrassing typos

Embarrassing typos are fairly common. But some typos are more embarrassing than others. Like forgetting the “l” in the word public. In the last few months, I’ve read two news stories about this error and caught an instance of it myself in a local business publication. See how to catch embarrassing typos. Is “pubic” public […]

That or Which?

that or which

That or Which: What’s the difference? The “that or which” question can be tricky. The answer depends on the situation. Both that and which are relative pronouns (as described here, anyway) that introduce a dependent clause. A dependent clause is a part of a sentence that has a subject and a predicate but that cannot […]

Five Tips for Effective Business Writing

effective business writing

Effective Business Writing Speaks to Your Readers Your marketing materials contain a crucial message. If that message doesn’t go over well, sales may slump. But effective business writing connects with readers. It adds to the appeal of your product or service, raises your company’s credibility, and increases revenues. Follow these tips for effective business writing […]

Creating effective web copy for a business site

Click image to download RedLine's white paper on writing and editing effective web copy.

Effective web copy: why it matters Effective web copy may mean the difference between a lead and a bounce. Good copy contains clear language that explains what you offer. It invites your potential customers to stick around. By contrast, empty or vague language may drive would-be clients away. The same goes for spelling and grammar: […]

Stephen Colbert, dumb Congress

Stephen Colbert says Congress is “dumb” It seems that I’m not the only one who likes this clip (see below). Do a search for “Stephen Colbert dumb congress” and you’ll see many other blog sites that have picked up this segment. In late May, I wrote about a report from a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that […]

David Sedaris vs. the truth

David Sedaris bends the truth… In May, the Washington Post published an article on the American humorist David Sedaris, who has appeared numerous times on NPR and is a frequent contributor to “This American Life,” a weekend program on public radio. Sedaris’s books have been categorized as nonfiction, but anyone who has ever read his […]

Sloppy microchips and euphemisms

What are sloppy microchips? Does the term “sloppy microchips” turn you off? If so, maybe you would prefer a mild, indirect, or vague substitution for offensive, unattractive, or blunt words: the euphemism! A fascinating article in The Economist details the advent of “sloppy” microchips, which tolerate errors while operating. The trick will be controlling when […]

When branding affects literature: Tolstoy and the Nook e-reader

In a 2012 English-language release of the digital book War and Peace, the verb “kindle” became “Nook.” How? It seems that a copyeditor performed a search-and-replace for “Kindle” and introduced “Nook” into the manuscript. Take that, Amazon Kindle! Unfortunately, that gave rise to the following sentences, which undoubtedly confused a few readers: “He has retreated […]

Which language is best when using Twitter?

Certain languages are more conducive to tweeting than others, according to a recent article in The Economist. Chinese and Japanese are especially useful for micro-blogging due to their inherent brevity relative to other languages. (Twitter is blocked in China.) Those who tweet in Arabic and Korean can also make their micro-posts relatively concise. Romance languages […]

Obama’s State of Union speech at 8th-grade reading level

A Politico post says that President Obama’s State of the Union speech in January registered at an 8th-grade reading level.  The score in question was calculated using the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test, which looks at average word length and average sentence length to determine the reading difficulty of a given text. Obama’s detractors may not want […]