Have you ever been confused about when to use a colon as opposed to, say, a dash? When using a colon, think of "as follows." A colon can introduce a series of elements or amplify what came before the colon. Note regarding "as follows": this applies to run-in lists. If you're creating a vertical list (maybe using bullets or numbers), the best way to introduce it is with a a complete grammatical statement. Example: All applications must include the following documents: A colon can be used between independent clauses (acting a lot like a semicolon), BUT use rarely, and ONLY to show that the second clause illustrates or expands the first. And occasionally, you can use a colon instead of a period to introduce a series of sentences. Example: She had several choices: She could...long sentence. She could....second sentence. Or she could...third sentence. Just keep in mind that generally you want to use a colon to give a sense of "as follows." Guidance from Chicago Manual of Style, sixteenth edition (6.59)(6.123)
Did you know there's a business protocol for folding letters? Someone contacted me recently and wanted to know the right way for a letter-size piece of paper to be folded. Here's what I found out: For 8 1/2 x 11 paper that is going in a #10 envelope, or other stationery with a No. 9 or Monarch envelope, or a No. 6 3/4 envelope, Gregg Reference Manual (1391) says:
- Bring the bottom third of the letter up and make a crease.
- Fold the top of the letter down to within 3/8 inch of the crease you made in step 1. Then make the second crease.
This week I took a course in Plain Language at the Disability Empowerment Center in Phoenix, and learned about the Plain Writing Act of 2010. Plain English/Language/Writing isn't about "dumbing down," but rather about clear communication. Among others, those of us who write website content and direct mail copy understand writing to a specific audience, and the new Plain Writing Act is focusing on that. The two day course I took, sponsored by The Arizona Center for Disability Law, was one of the finest seminars I've ever attended. Never did Audrey Riffenburgh speak down to us, and it would have been easy. But by focusing on the viewer/reader constantly, we learned how to analyze writing and formatting, what to avoid and what to use, and how to analyze and create documents that clearly state their purpose for the intended cultural/linguistic audience. We learned how to analyze and re-shape forms, brochures, papers, etc. into documents that make more sense to the reader. But it's much more. Plain Language is finally emerging as a method to let specific groups of people read something they understand according to their particular culture. We learned how to identify the literacy skills of adults in the U.S., and how to define the "mismatch" between consumer literacy skills and the literacy demands of most communications for the public. And it's still much more than I can describe. I see this as extremely valuable for agencies and businesses that can identify their "target readers." The result, at every level, is that time is saved. For everyone. And time is money. Agencies and businesses "get" that. Incidentally, this was just the basic workshop. There is more, and I hope to take advanced courses so I can be of more value to the nonprofit agencies for which I work. Clearly, my mind is spinning with what I've learned, and how to be more specific/efficient/effective in my work with every client I have.