When to Italicize

It often confuses new writers as to when to italicize words and when not to. This is natural because there are no set rules for this and much depends on the writer’s own discretion. However, there are certain guidelines that tell you what needs to be italicized. Here they are:

1. Emphasis. When you want to put an emphasis, or want a word or phrase to stand out from the rest.  For example:

You mean to say you wrote this?

Do not write on the wall.

2. Words as separate words. When words in a sentence are used as separate words. For example:

Don’t forget to italicize the word hope.

Committee is a word that is often misspelled.

3. Letters as words. When letters of the alphabet are used as words in a sentence. For example:

Put an X on the spot that needs to be fixed.

Don’t forget to cross your t’s.

4. Reproduced sounds as words.  Sometimes sounds are reproduced to bring effect to the writing. For example:

Thud, the parcel fell on the ground.

Bzzzzzz … the bee buzzed.

5. Foreign words. Foreign words and phrases that are unfamiliar to most readers. For example:

The lawyer says it’s a prima facie case.

Namaste,” the Indian man folded his hands in greeting.

6. Titles. Titles of books, plays, magazines, newspapers, movies, television shows etc. (Holy Books like the Bible, Koran, and others are not italicized.) For example:

Seinfeld is a popular TV program.

He reads the New York Times every morning.

7. Names of vehicles. Names of spaceships, boats, trains etc. that are proper names. For example:

The Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg.

The Orient Express is a fast train.

Keep these points in mind and you will know when to italicize words. If you’re still in doubt, just use standard font.

I hope this has been of help to you. If not, what else would you like to know about italics?

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Inspiring Authors

Writing tips from authors. An extremely inspiring video.

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Short Story Writing Tips by Kurt Vonnegut

Well known writer Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote some wonderful short stories, offers short story writing tips.

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Business E-mail Etiquette – 3

Business e-mails are something that almost all of us have to write some time or the other – whether we’re students, job seekers, business executives, or just about anyone else. Even stay-at-homes need to write them sometimes. How crucial well written e-mails are we have already discussed in our previous posts. The heading fields were discussed in Part 1 and the body in Part 2. Now here are some other points that have to be kept in mind in order to produce a well written and well formatted business e-mail:

1. Make it personal: A personal touch to the business e-mail always proves to be more effective. Custom the content according to the person you are writing to. In other words, keep the personal touch only as far as you know the person, don’t take it too far. Try and avoid auto replies, they’re too “mechanical”.

2. Answer swiftly: Reply to e-mails as soon as possible, within 24 hours if possible. If for some reason you cannot reply immediately, then write to them saying that you have received their e-mail and will get back to them as soon as possible.  This shows your efficiency and professionalism.

3. Keep the message thread:  It is better to hit the reply button and keep the original message rather than starting a new mail.  A person very often receives several e-mails a day and it becomes difficult to remember everything. A thread works as a reminder of what the e-mail is about.

4. Be polite: This is very important. You wouldn’t want to give the impression of being rude or disrespectful. So, be careful in the choice of words and the tone of your language. Never use all capitals, all capitals means you’re shouting.

5. Don’t use abbreviations and emoticons: The use of abbreviations and emoticons in business e-mails is considered inappropriate. Besides, you can never be sure whether the person you’re writing to understands the abbreviations or not. Same goes for emoticons, like a smiley. The recipient may wonder why it’s there, which in turn may lead to misunderstandings.

6. Avoid the use of rich text or HTML: Remember, not all e-mail clients read rich text or HTML. Also, many offices keep their e-mail settings to plain text. So, if you send them in rich text or HTML, they might not be able to read your message, or they will get it as a .txt attachment.

7. Be careful with attachments: We all know how attachments can carry viruses, so very often recipients don’t even open them. So, if you do need to send an attachment, ask the recipient first if it’s ok to send it. If an attachment is a short one, it is best to copy paste it into the e-mail body itself.

8. Use the high priority option sparingly: Use the high priority option only when your message is urgent. Its overuse will lose its function, and you may also come across as being aggressive.

9. Add disclaimers:  Disclaimers are very important. They protect you and your company from liability. So, always have disclaimers at the end of your messages.

10. Re-read before sending: Always re-read what you have written in the e-mail before sending it. Re-read through the eyes of the recipient – this not only corrects grammar, spelling and punctuation errors, but also avoids misunderstandings and inappropriate use of words or comments.

All these points may seem trivial, but go a long way in producing effective and professional e-mails, which in turn give a good impression of you as a business person.

Have I mentioned everything here, or have I missed anything? Or do you disagree with any of the given points? Please share your thoughts here so others may also benefit.

Business E-mail Etiquette – 1

Business E-mail Etiquette – 2

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Business E-mail Etiquette – 2

In the first part of Business E-mail Etiquette, we discussed the importance of well written and well formatted business e-mails. It’s these e-mails that give the first impression of you as a business person. We also mentioned that though there are no rules as such on how to write business e-mails, there are certain etiquettes that need to be followed. Last time we discussed the etiquette basics for header fields. This time we will discuss the etiquette basics for the body of the e-mail.

Etiquette basics for the body of the e-mail:

1. Salutations: How to write the salutation depends much on the situation and whether or not you know the person you are writing to. If you know the person, the salutation will be just as you would address him/her in person – ‘Dear’ followed by the first name if that’s how you address him/her, or ‘Dear’ followed by the title Mr., Mrs., Ms, or Miss and the last name. If you don’t know the person, use the normal salutation that you would in a business letter – ‘Dear’ followed by the title Mr., Mrs., Ms, or Miss and the last name. Sometimes you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to; in that case, try and find it out and use it in the salutation. If you can’t find it out, then use ‘Dear’ followed by the position/title of the person – for example, ‘Dear Principal’ or ‘Dear Manager’.

2. Give some background: Don’t assume the recipient to know why you are writing. Always start your e-mail by giving some background information.

3. Keep it concise: When you come to the actual message of the e-mail, come straight to the point and only say what you have to say. In other words, keep it brief and concise. Business persons don’t have the time to read unnecessary things, nor to scroll down looking for the information they want. So, keep your e-mail only as long as it needs to be. If your e-mail is a reply, then be sure to answer all the questions that need to be answered. If don’t do that, it will only mean more e-mails back and forth, and as a result waste of time, or even loss of the client.

4. Give proper structure and layout: Structure and layout is just as important as the content of the e-mail to show your professionalism. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short; leave blank lines in between paragraphs; if you are making points, then number them; keep your language gender neutral; and be sure to use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Always re-read what you have written before sending your e-mail. You wouldn’t want to regret sending an e-mail with errors, would you?

5. Signatures: Sign off your email the same way as you would a business letter – ‘Yours faithfully’ if you don’t know the person you’re writing to, ‘Yours sincerely’ if you know the person, ‘Best wishes’ or ‘Best regards’ if the person is a friend. Follow this by your name. But keep your signature file short – just your name, your position/title, your company name, phone number, and website link. Sometimes e-mail addresses and mailing addresses are also given, but they are not necessary because the e-mail address is already evident in the header, and no one really uses mailing addresses anymore.

Please feel free to add anything that I may have missed here.

(Some more tips follow in Part 3 of Business E-mail Etiquette)

Business E-mail Etiquette – 1

Business E-mail Etiquette – 3

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Business E-mail Etiquette – 1

When it comes to writing business e-mails, you have to be very careful about how you write them as they are a reflection of you as a business person. Business e-mails are a chance for you to make the right impression and to build trust and confidence. Well written and well formatted e-mails are also effective in conveying the right message. There are no “rules” as such on how to write good and effective e-mails, but there are certain etiquette guidelines that need to be followed in order for your e-mails to be effective.

I give below some etiquette basics to make your e-mails look professional and create a good impression. (Those of you who already know these, take them as reminders). It’s not possible to give all the tips here in one post, so I have divided them into 3 posts. Today is the first – header fields.

Here are the etiquette basics for header fields:

1. The ‘From’ field: Since it’s a business e-mail, decide on what you are going to fill in this field – your company’s name, your designation/title, or your name. Different companies have different rules and preferences, at other times it’s the content or purpose of the e-mail that decides on the ‘From’ of the e-mail. So, use your discretion when filling out this field.

2. The ‘To’, ‘Cc’, and ‘BCc’ fields:  Use your discretion in filling out these fields. Write the name of the person you would like a response from in the ‘To’ field; the name/names of the person/persons you would like the contents of the e-mail known to in the ‘Cc’ field; and the name/names of the person/persons you would like to make the contents of the e-mail known to, and yet would not want to disclose their names or e-mail addresses to the others. The ‘BCc’ is more of a privacy issue, so do be very careful on how you use it. If people from whom you have hidden the e-mails get to know about it, they might not like it since it’s similar to talking behind their backs. At other times, people would prefer it this way in order not to have their e-mail addresses hidden. It’s a very delicate situation – hence, the care in the use of ‘BCc’.

3. The Subject field: This is a very important field since it is this that determines whether your e-mail will be opened or not. The subject should make it clear to the recipient as to what exactly is contained in the e-mail. In other words, it should “summarize” the contents of the e-mail in just a few words – as short as possible. A good subject has another advantage – both to the sender and the recipient. It makes it easy to organize the e-mails in different files and folders, and later refer to them when there is the need. A word of caution: Avoid all caps, all small case, or typos in your subject, otherwise there’s the risk of the e-mail being considered spam. Also, never leave the subject field empty – it’s again taken to be spam.

Do write in if I have missed a point worth mentioning here.

Business E-mail Etiquette – 2

Business E-mail Etiquette – 3

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Punctuation – Inside or Outside Quotation Marks

There is general confusion on the use of punctuation with quotation marks. Should the punctuation be inside or outside quotation marks? The confusion is understandable since it is seen written both ways – inside and outside. So, which is correct? The answer is – both. Here’s why –

According to the American style, the commas and periods (or full stops) always go inside the quotation marks. For example:

“Sam,” he said, “your dinner’s on the table.”

I like Shakespeare’s line “to be or not to be.”

So, the American rule is – always place the comma and the period inside the quotation marks.

In the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries where there is British influence, it’s different. Here instead of following a rule, logic is used. In other words, the placement of the comma or period depends on whether it belongs to the quotation or to the sentence that contains the quotation. For instance in the examples above, the first example remains as it is –

“Sam,” he said, “your dinner’s on the table.”

This is because the comma after the Sam and the period after the table belong to the quote.

The second example, however, changes to

I like Shakespeare’s line “to be or not to be”.

The reason for the change here is that the period belongs to the complete sentence and not the quoted material.

So, the British rule is – place the comma and period inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material, otherwise place them outside.

But the rules for the question mark, exclamation mark, colon and semicolon are the same in both the American and British systems.

The question and exclamation marks follow the rule of logic – they are placed inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material , otherwise outside. For example:

She asked, “Am I late?”

He screamed, “Help!”

But –

Did you hear him say “I don’t want to go”?

I can’t believe he said “I am scared”!

The colon and semicolon are always placed outside the quotation marks. For example:

I found three things in the new magazine “The World Today”: quality, information, and attractiveness.

The guard said “Stop”; I stopped.

Do you know of any other rules pertaining to punctuation and quotation marks?

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