Business Writing

In today’s cut-throat business scenario, “survival of the fittest” theory has become increasingly applicable. People try out various ways and means to stay afloat or excel in their business. Businessmen always strive to develop new strategies for the growth of the company. And, this can only be achieved when they are able to reach out to people. If their approach is correct, these people can become their future clients, business partners, etc. Thus, communication is indispensable for business activities, and it mainly relies on writing. Business writing refers to any written document used as a medium to communicate and share information. It can be in the form of emails, annual reports, letters, memos, proposals, press releases, brochures, technical documentation, ads, presentations, etc. Planning and implementation of any business activity includes one or more of the above types of business writing. Given its importance, they should be such written so as to be able to convey information in an effective way. Poorly written business writings can lead to disastrous consequences. For many people, however successful they might be, the writing aspect is a stumbling block. So, let us discuss a few tips for business writing that might make it seem a bit easier.

 Tips for Business Writing

  • Knowing your audience is a key aspect of business writing. You should be aware of the target readers for whom you are writing: whether they are young or old, well educated or not-so-well educated, are from a rural or urban background, what they already know about you, what information they need and why, etc.
  • Set your priorities before writing, whether it is just sharing of information, or advertising your product, or explaining the operation of a product, etc. Your writing should help in achieving your purpose.
  • Everyone’s time is precious. So, don’t write lengthy documents. By the time people reach your actual purpose, they might have already lost interest in reading it. Your writing should be simple and to the point.
  • Your writing should be well organized. There should be a logical flow of text and use bullet/number lists to present your information, wherever applicable.
  • Avoid using technical jargons in your writing. Only the persons from that particular field will understand them, but not others. But, if you are writing specifically for a particular group of people, then you can use jargons relevant to that field.
  • Avoid writing in passive voice. People find active voice content more interesting as it has a concise and direct tone. For example: “Doctors use our product” grabs more attention than “Our product is used by doctors”.
  • Keep the language as simple as possible so that people can easily understand. People will lose interest in reading if they come across complicated words.
  • Last, but not the least, ensure that your content is error free. Proofread your draft thoroughly before finalizing it. Grammar, punctuation and spelling errors in your business writings can be suicidal for your purpose. In this regard, you can get quite a few handy grammar tips from Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.

These tips may not help you to master the art of business writing, but it sure will put you on the right track. The right way of communication is essential for the success of any business, small or big. Written material is the first thing that people use to reach out to their employees, clients, investors, etc. People judge a company or product by what they get to read about it. Follow these tips so that your writing serves your purpose.

Peer Review Mechanism

Many of us have often come across the terms “peer review”, “peer-reviewed journal” or “peer-reviewed paper” at some or the other point of time. But, how many of us know what exactly the term “peer review” refers to or what the “peer review process” is all about? Let us discuss this key aspect of the research process.

According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), peer review is the critical assessment of manuscripts submitted to journals by experts who are not part of the editorial staff. Peer review, which is also known as refereeing, has become an inevitable part of the quality control process, which determines whether a paper is worth publishing/funding or not.

The origin of peer review often dates back to 18th century Britain. However, it became a key part of the research process only in the second half of the 20th century, triggered by the growth of scholarly research. As the reviewers are specialized in the same field as the author, they are considered to be the author’s peers; hence, it was coined as “peer review”.

Peer Review Process

The author submits the paper to the respective journal. The Journal Editor forwards that paper to experts (reviewers) in the relevant field. These reviewers thoroughly analyze the quality of the paper, validity of the data and methods used, and the accuracy of the results. They provide their judgment on the paper whether: there is scope for improvement, it is ok as it is, or it is not worth publishing. If there are changes to be made in the paper, the reviewers list in their comments the particular areas that have scope for improvement. Then the paper is returned to the Journal Editor who sends it to the author with the appropriate decision: accepted as it is; accepted with revisions; or rejected. Accordingly, the author makes the changes and resubmits to the same journal, or resubmits to another journal.

Types of Peer Review

Peer review can be classified into three types based on the levels of transparency:

Single-blind review: In this case, the author’s identity is known to the reviewers, but not vice versa.

Double-blind review: In this case, the identities of the author and reviewers are hidden from each other.

Open peer review: Here, the author’s and reviewers’ identities are known to each other.

At present, the peer review process is implemented by a majority of scientific journals. It helps to prevent falsified work from being published. Its importance has become such that, most research are not considered to be serious stuff unless they have been validated by peer review. A peer-reviewed paper that is accepted for publication is looked upon as a work of quality. But, this process has its own disadvantages. It is an extremely time-consuming process. The long wait can be extremely frustrating for the researcher and can even jeopardize his academic progress. Moreover, sometimes the element of bias creeps into the peer review process. The reviewers’ judgment might be influenced by their own perception of things, the identity of the author, and at times, even the country of origin of the author.

How to Get Your Research Published

Writing is the most important aspect of scientific research. There is no doubt about it. But, do not think that your goal is accomplished after you are done with this onerous task. In fact, you have to cross yet another important hurdle. After writing, you need to think of how to get your research published in some journal in order to share your research ideas and results with the scientific community. Your scientific achievement is measured in terms of the articles you have published. Most of the researchers falter in this step and end up in making some wrong decisions. Here are a few tips on how to get your research published, which might help in making things easier for you.

Tips on How to Get Your Research Published

  • Most of the researchers think about where to publish their paper after writing it. But, it is always better to first decide the journal in which you want your paper to be published, and then start writing. It saves a lot of time in terms of post-writing formatting.
  • When choosing a journal, do not choose the one with a very high impact factor unless you are fully confident about the quality of your paper. High-impact factor journals have high rejection rates.
  • Check whether your research topic comes under the aims and scope of the chosen journal. After putting in all the hard work, you would never want your paper to be rejected only because you chose the wrong journal.
  • Publishers are always impressed if you have cited articles of the chosen journal in your paper.
  • Do not submit your article simultaneously to various journals, which is unethical. Wait till you get a proper response from one particular journal before proceeding on to another.
  • Ensure that all the formatting guidelines specified by the target journal have been properly followed.
  • The cover letter is the first thing that the journal editor goes through. Address it to the Journal’s Editor/Editor-in-Chief. Keep the tone informal. Give a short gist of your work. And, include your contact details at the end.
  • Last, but not the least, do not get discouraged if your paper gets rejected. Many of the best research papers had to deal with initial rejection. If the journal has sent reviews, ponder them carefully and make the necessary changes in your paper before resubmitting. Write a proper response letter highlighting the reviewer’s comments and your responses. The original content and the revised content should be clearly distinguishable so that the reviewer can easily see what changes you have made to your paper. And, ensure that you re-submit within the stipulated time frame. If the journal has rejected your paper outrightly, then consider submitting to another journal.

The above tips on how to get your research published will surely be handy for you. But, remember that following these tips alone will not get your paper published. Your research should be well written and your ideas should have been strongly presented. If you are still unsure of how to proceed, there are professionals out there who will be happy to help you. So, go ahead, Research, Get Published, and Get Read…

Using Proper Punctuations

Punctuation is considered to be one of the most fundamental aspects of writing. Proper punctuations determine the flow of writing. If you have used proper punctuations in your writing, it helps the readers to understand what exactly you want to convey. If wrong punctuations are used, the readers are left to decipher the actual meaning themselves, which can distract them from the actual purpose of reading. Using improper punctuations can taint a writer’s image completely. Consider the following sentence: “He wants to eat Dad” and “He wants to eat, Dad”. The missing comma in the first example has changed its meaning. Even a small error in using proper punctuations can alter the meaning of a sentence completely. There is a case about a company, which lost a very important and costly deal just because of a misplaced comma in its agreement contract. Despite punctuations being so important, people tend to take them very lightly, and some are even unaware of their use. It is always useful to know how to use proper punctuations. Here are a few tips for using proper punctuations in writing:

Tips for Using Proper Punctuations

Full Stop/End Period (.)

  • A full stop is used to denote the end of a sentence whose meaning is complete.

   He has gone to the market.

   There are so many birds in the courtyard.

   It was hot outside.

  • Do not use a full stop when the sentence ends with a question mark or an exclamation mark.

   Incorrect: When will you return to India?.

   Correct: When will you return to India?

   Incorrect: What an incredible display of fireworks!.

   Correct: What an incredible display of fireworks!

  • A full stop is used to denote an abbreviation. It is used if a word does not end with its last character.

   Professor – Prof.

   Doctor – Dr (No full stop is used here as the first and last letters are there).

   Note: In US English, it is written as Mr. and Dr.

  • If the last word of a sentence ends with a period, do not set another end period.

   You may go ahead with your meeting, shopping, partying, etc. I will join you later.

Comma (,)

  • A comma along with a conjunction is used to connect two independent clauses.

   As his ankle was injured, he couldn’t walk properly.

   He had many important appointments, yet he made it to the party.

  • A comma is used to separate three or more phrases/clauses that are written in a series.

   The government promised to take measures to bring down inflation, unemployment, corruption, and crime rates.

   The victim was taken to a remote place, strangled to death, and then set on fire.

  • A comma is used after the phrase that precedes the subject of the sentence.

   After you reach office, please call me.

   If you don’t come home early, your father will be angry.

  • A comma is used to differentiate direct quotes.

   David Allen said, “You can do anything, but not everything.”

   “Walk up to that check post,” the cop ordered. “I need to talk to you.”

  • A comma is used to separate the statement from the question.

   I should help her, shouldn’t I?

  • A comma is used for separating contrasting parts of a sentence.

  That is my property, not yours.

  • A comma is used when the sentence begins with introductory words such as wellnow, yes, etc.

   Yes, I have to report this incident.

   Well, I never imagined that I would meet you again.

  • A comma is used before and after surrounding words (such as therefore and however) when they are used as interrupters.

   I would, therefore, want to book an early flight.

   I am willing, however, to vote for him.

Semicolon (;)

  • A semicolon is used to connect two independent clauses with closely related themes.

   John graduated in 2011; his brother graduated last year.

   Train is the most popular public transport; it is cheap and time-saving.

  • A semicolon is used to differentiate items in a series, which already contains other punctuation marks.

They had planned to visit California, Boston, and New York in USA; Spain, France, and Italy in Europe; and Melbourne and Perth in Australia.

Colon (:)

  • A colon is used to initiate a list.

   He likes all types of adventure sports: bungee jumping, para-sailing, sky diving, etc.

   His firm had many branches overseas: US, UK, Australia, Africa, etc.

  • A colon is used to introduce a direct quote. In this case, a colon should be placed at the end of a complete sentence.

 After suffering a huge loss, Harry remembered Shakespeare’s famous saying: “All that glitters is not gold.”

  • A colon is used to present an idea.

   The accused had only one option left: confess or face the consequences.

Apostrophe (’)

  • An apostrophe is used to show possession. In other words, it is used when we need to denote that a person/thing belongs to someone/something.

   Tom’s shirt (Tom’s shirt was neatly ironed).

   Dog’s paw (That dog’s paw was bleeding).

  • An apostrophe is used to indicate the omission of letter(s)/numbers.

   You’re (You are).

   She’s (She is/She has).

   ’84 (1984).

  • An apostrophe should not be used with possessive pronouns, which already indicate possession.

   Theirs, hers, ours, whose, yours, etc.

   Incorrect: That car is her’s.

   Correct: That car is hers.

Exclamation Mark (!)

  • An exclamation mark is used to emphasize a strong feeling of anger, surprise, excitement, joy, etc.

  “That shrine is marvellous!”

  “Hang on!” Jim yelled. “The tide will subside soon.”

  “Good grief!” John said. “How did they get inside the mall?”

We have discussed just a few of the common rules for using proper punctuations. This topic is quite vast with numerous rules dealing with every aspect of grammar. However, these tips are enough to provide you with a general idea regarding the use of proper punctuations in writing.

Writing an Appendix

Writing an appendix is a useful option when you need to present non-essential information in your paper. An appendix is the last section of a paper, which contains detailed information about the research and provides additional scope for better understanding of the study. It contains extensive resources that can be further investigated by the reader. It also helps to analyze and validate the results and conclusions. It is placed at the end of the paper as it may disrupt the flow of thought in the main text, which can be quite distracting for the readers. It can include graphs, maps, tables, questionnaires, forms, calculations, bibliography, etc. Including an appendix in your paper is optional. Any type of writing can include an appendix such as essays, thesis, reports, research papers, etc. Formatting an appendix section is generally done as per certain guidelines like APA, Chicago Manual of Style, etc. Apart from that, there are several general guidelines that need to be followed when writing an appendix.

 Tips for Writing an Appendix

  • First analyze whether writing an appendix for your paper will be beneficial for the target readers. If yes, include it in your paper.
  • There can be a single appendix in a paper or more than that depending upon the requirement. If there is a single one, label it as Appendix. If there is more than one, label as Appendices; under that, label it as Appendix 1, 2, Appendix I, II, or Appendix A, B depending upon the style.
  • The title of the appendix should be descriptive to the reader.
  • The appendix/appendices should be cited in the main text of your paper.
  • Each appendix must always begin on a new page.
  • It should be well-structured so that the readers can easily understand it.
  • The appendix is not included in the word count of a paper. So, you can make it lengthy or brief as per your requirements.
  • For the section headings, tables and figures, follow the same style that you have followed in your main text.
  • If a paper has an appendix, it should be listed in the Table of Contents.

These guidelines provide an outline idea about writing an appendix. Nowadays, many journals have facilitated to provide this supplementary information to online readers only so as to reduce the printing costs. So, in case you have to include an appendix in your paper, but bothered about the cost factor, you can go for the “online only” option.

Using Bullet Points

A bullet point/list is a very handy tool when it comes to business or technical writing. It consists of a number of items, which are preceded by a small dot, square, dash or graphic. A bullet point is used in those cases where all the information (that needs to be presented) is of equal importance, i.e., no particular hierarchy or sequence is required. It helps to present considerable information in a concise manner. A bullet point is visually very appealing as it puts less strain on the eyes of the reader. As such, it is used to highlight important information in the text. It is easier for a reader to understand the information presented as bullet points compared to paragraphs. However, it should be sparingly used. Else, it stands to lose its purpose. Although this tool is popular, there is quite a lot of confusion in the minds of people as to how to set them, especially the punctuations in bullet points. We shall discuss a few important tips that will be useful to you.

Tips for using bullet points

The sentence introducing the bullet list should end with a colon.

Ex.: The menu includes:

  • pasta
  • sausages
  • pineapple pudding

If the bullet point item is a complete sentence in itself, you may capitalize its first letter (not mandatory). Just ensure that the style followed is consistent.

Ex.: The details of the National Development Program are as follows:

  • The Rural Development Board will set up healthcare centers in every village, which will provide free treatment to the poor.
  • All the rural areas will be connected by proper roads.

Use a period at the end of a bullet point if it concludes the introductory phrase.

Ex.: My weekend plan includes:

  • getting up late in the mornings.
  • watching a movie with my family.
  • hanging out with my friends.

Note: If the items are of one word or short, do not use punctuations at the end.

Do not use punctuations at the end if the bullet point item is not a complete sentence and does not conclude the introductory phrase.

Ex.: I am ready for any of these:

  • Shopping
  • Partying
  • Watching a movie

As per Garner’s Modern American Usage manual, if a bullet item begins with a lower case, a semicolon should be placed at the end of each item, an ‘and’ should be placed at the end of the penultimate item, and the final item should end with a period.

Ex.: It was my duty to:

  • book travel tickets;
  • book hotel rooms;
  • arrange tourist guides; and
  • keep a record of all cash transactions.

The bullet points should not be very lengthy. Limit it to around three sentences.

The grammar (tense) used in the bullet point should be consistent throughout. If not, it distracts the attention of the reader from the actual meaning of the bullet point.

After the last bullet point item, give a concluding sentence, which provides a sense of “completeness” to the reader.

Apart from the above tips, just remember that whatever format you choose, you should maintain it consistently throughout the list. In that way, the reader does not get confused and distracted.

Capitalization of Words

Capitalization refers to writing the first letter of a word in upper case and the remaining in lower case. In any kind of writing, usage of proper capitalization of words is very important. Its improper use is considered as sloppy writing and gives a wrong impression about the writer. Some readers even take it in a negative sense, which eventually affects the actual purpose of the writer. Capitalization helps to avoid confusion in the minds of the readers while reading your paper/article. We shall discuss a few of the guidelines for capitalization that must be kept in mind while writing.

Guidelines for Capitalization

  • The first letter of the first word in a sentence should be capitalized.

    Example: Will you come with me?

  • The pronoun ‘I’ should always be capitalized.

    Example 1: I came here to attend a conference.

    Example 2: I’m extremely sorry for breaking that expensive vase.

  • Titles should be capitalized only if they precede a name.

    Example: Managing Director Tom Jones is going to retire today.

  • Days of the week and months should be capitalized.

    Example 1: She will come on Monday.

    Example 2: Our school will reopen in June.

    Note: Do not capitalize seasons (Ex.: I learnt painting during our summer vacations).

  •  Proper nouns (names, places, organizations, etc.).

    Example 1: He is going to the market with John.

    Example 2: My cousin lives in Yellowstone Avenue.

    Example 3: He works in Venture Technologies.

  • Names of countries, languages, nationalities, religions.

    Example 1: He visited the United Kingdom.

   Example 2: He knows many languages including Spanish and French.

    Example 3: She is an Italian.

    Example 4: He likes to visit Hindu shrines.

  • Names of mountains, hills, oceans, rivers, etc.

    Example: Mount Everest, Khasi Hills, Pacific Ocean, Missouri River.

  •  Titles of books, movie names, etc.

    Example: Othello, Ben Hur.

Note: Articles or prepositions at the beginning should be in capital letters. If in between, they should be in lower case (Ex: A    Tale of Two Cities).

  • Names of wars and historical periods.

    Example: First World War, Battle of Plassey, Renaissance, Victorian Era.

  • Names of Holy books and deities.

    Example: Bible, Quran, Gita, Jesus, Krishna, Allah, Buddha.

  • Names of buildings and monuments.

    Example: The White House, the Statue of Liberty, etc.

  • The first word in a direct quote.

    Example: Picasso had said, “Give me a museum and I’ll fill it.”

  • Every letter in an acronym should be in capital letters.

    Example: NATO, UN, SAARC, CNN.

  • Family relationships when used with a name.

    Example: Aunt Matilda is my favorite aunt.

We have discussed a few of the guidelines for capitalization. Apart from these, there are many more instances where capital letters are used. However, remember that there might be exceptions for a few of these rules. If you have any doubts whatsoever regarding the capitalization of a word, you can even look it up in the dictionary.

MLA style citation: In-text

The basic purpose of using in-text citations and references is to enable the reader to easily locate/access the sources from which data/information has been collected. The MLA style citations are formatted according to the guidelines of the Modern Language Association. A paper with MLA style citation should include in-text citations with a corresponding reference list, commonly known as ‘Works Cited’. The Works Cited section at the end of your paper should include all the in-text citations that have been used in the main paper.

Guidelines for MLA style citations: In-text

Basic citation

Mention the author’s surname and the page number of the work from which the information was taken.

Example 1: We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom (Tolstoy 348).

Example 2: According to Tolstoy, the company of intelligent women is very much necessary for a young man (15).

Note: There should be no punctuations between the author’s surname and page number. If the author’s name is mentioned in the sentence itself, do not include it in the parentheses.

Two or three authors

If there are two or three authors, use ‘and’ as a separator, not ‘&’.

Example 1: . . . for the effective management of stroke in TAH patients (Hart and Sherman 671).

Example 2: The subjects suffered from severe infection (Rose, Moskowitz, and Packer 726).

More than three authors

List the first author’s surname followed by ‘et al.’

Example:  (Smith et al. 55).

Multiple works cited together

Example: (Tolstoy 348; Smith et al. 55).

Two authors with same surname

To differentiate the works of two authors having the same surname, include the initials of both the authors.

Example: … is described (A. Johnson 118). The advantages of these methods were investigated in another study (T. Johnson 301).

Short Quotations

Example 1: Freud stated that “religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis” (78).

Example 2: “Religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis” (Freud 78).

Long Quotations

If the quote is more than 4-5 lines:

  • It should be set as a separate block.
  • Set an indent of one inch from the left margin.
  • Do not use quotation marks.
  • The page number should be set in parentheses after the quotation ends. Remember that it should be set after the period.

Example:

This reminds us of Parker’s famous words:

This is a small advice for all young men out there. Do not marry until you have proved yourself, both to you and to others. People don’t value the emotions that you have. They just see what you are, how successful you are. They say that feelings cannot provide you with two square meals a day. You need to have money for that. (28)

We have discussed only a few of the most commonly used MLA style citations for in-text entries. It will be further discussed in our future posts.

Book Index

The term “Index” is mostly used in the publishing industry. It is a systematic list of words with the page numbers on which that particular word appears. For example, you read a book about banking operations. After reading it, you want to look up some information about ATMs, but you don’t remember the exact page number. If the book has an index, you can easily look at it and find the page number where information about ATM is given. An index can be of various types, such as for books, journals, computer databases, etc. Of these, book index is most commonly found. Indexing is not required to be done for short books or novels.

A book index can be considered to be the search engine of your book. As such, it is a very important concept. It helps the readers to quickly and easily locate something in a large book. It is considered to be an organized map of the complete book. It would not be wrong to say that a book’s usefulness is measured by its index. An index is usually found at the end of a book and is also known as back-of-the-book index.

General Tips for Preparing a Book Index

  • Identify the important concepts of each topic and then make a list of the key terms.
  • Organize the entries in an alphabetical order. That makes it easier to search for entries.
  • Give an extra space before starting the next alphabet’s entries. That will enhance the visual appeal of the index.
  • Use a separator, preferably comma, between the entry and its page number.
  • Ensure that there are no spelling mistakes. And, double check that you have set the correct page numbers.
  • The book index should be prepared only when the content has been completely finalized. If not, the page numbers would have to be updated again or some entries have to be added/deleted when some changes are made to the content.

Preparing a book index is an exhaustive and frustrating task. Therefore, authors/writers mostly seek the help of professional indexers for setting it.

Concept of Medical Writing

Medical writing is quite different compared to other kinds of professional writings. The concept of medical writing involves writing different types of scientific documents relating to research, disease- or drug-related promotional content, journal articles for publication, and content for websites, magazines or news focused on health care.

Doing adequate research is the most vital aspect of medical content writing. You also need to have knowledge of terminology from various fields. Apart from that, the points discussed below will help you to get a basic idea of how to go about it.

Tips for Medical Writing

  • The purpose of medical writing is to convey the medical information to the readers in an easily understandable way. Therefore, the information that you present should be target-specific, i.e., it should be presented to suit the level of understanding of the target readers who may be general public, patients, or medical professionals.
  • Medical writing has a serious aspect to it as people will take crucial decisions based on what they read. So, you need to present your facts correctly. You have to do considerable research before you write. While doing so, ensure that you gather information only from trusted sources.
  • If you are writing content for a website, the tone of your writing should be conversational. The sentences should be short and to the point.
  • Remember that your readers will not be only medical professionals. People might face difficulties in understanding medical terms. Explain the complex medical terms and procedures in as simple a way as possible.
  • The visual setting of the article is also very important. So, your content should be properly structured. Include subheadings and bulleted/numbered lists wherever possible.
  • There should be no grammatical mistakes in your content. For ex: A misplaced punctuation might seem to be a trivial thing, but it is enough to change the meaning of a sentence altogether.

Due to the rise in the number of medical and research organisations, the significance of medical writing has also gone up. There is considerable demand for well written and well-organized content that can be easily understood by all.