Write Right! :: Key Takeaways Part II

For my second installment of key takeaways from Jan Venolia’s Write Right!, I want to focus on her notes for style. This section of the book is full of useful nuggets, so it would be next to impossible not to learn something from her writerly wisdom.

Here are some notes I jotted down in my Moleskine. Many may seem routine to you, but to me they were eye-opening.

  • An acronym is pronounced as a word. “NASA, OPEC, OSHA”
  • An initialism is pronounced letter by letter. “NBA, YMCA, NSA”
  • Choosing the correct article (a or an) before an acronym is determined phonetically.  Use ‘an’ if it proceeds an F, H, L, M, N, R, S, or X.
  • Abbreviate social titles only when the full name is used. “Rev. Jesse Jackson. Reverend Jackson.”
  • Abbreviate country names, such as United States and United Kingdom, only when they are used as an adjective. “U.S. Ambassador, U.S. Foreign Policy.”
  • Use italics for foreign words when they are not normal.

Here are a few notes on capitalization:

  • Capitalize the first word after a colon if it’s a complete sentence; lower if not.
  • Do not capitalize the word city in “city of Toronto”.
  • Seasons are not capitalized.
  • Capitalize African Americans and Caucasians, not blacks and whites.

And finally some notes on using numbers:

  • Write the words (1-9) when using them for journalism, science, or business. “Two, nine”
  • Write the words (1-99) for literary writing. “Seven, fifty, sixty-one”
  • Write the words if they begin a sentence. “Four score and seven years ago…”
  • Write the words for decades. “The twenties”
  • Write the numbers larger than nine for journalism, science, or business. “29, 88”
  • Write the numbers larger than ninety-nine for literary writing. “102, 1054”
  • Write the numbers when it’s a mix of these rules, such as “8 to 30 employees.”
  • Write the numbers when referring to a part of a book, such as “Chapter 9, page 71.”
  • Write the numbers for all dates and times. “21st Century or 10 P.M.”

You can check out other key takeaways here.

By Chad Norman

Chad is a marketing and branding strategist, proven leader, speaker, founder, and author. As COO of Catch Talent, he leads day-to-day operations including finance, human resources, marketing, and communications, as well as directs all employer brand client deliverables. Prior to Catch, Chad was VP of Marketing & Communication at SPARC, he served on the senior leadership team and lead marketing and communication strategy across all products and services. At Blackbaud, the leading provider of nonprofit technology solutions, Chad managed digital marketing and online training teams. In 2016, Chad founded DisruptHR Charleston, a bi-annual gathering of HR professionals for a night of networking and Ignite talks. His book, 101 Social Media Tactics for Nonprofits: A Field Guide, was published by Wiley in February 2012. Chad has presented at dozens of industry events including SXSW, SHRM, DisruptHR, IHRIM, NTC, DMA, AFP, and BBCON and has lectured at Wake Forest University, Indiana University, University of Michigan, College of Charleston, and The Citadel.

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