Who is teaching whom? Worst example of corporate inconsistency ever.

There are three C’s to good writing: you have to be correct, you have to use compelling language, and you have to be consistent.

Consistency is the big bugaboo for businesses. It’s amazing to me how often I’ll come across a business whose very name varies from page to page to page, a business whose business name is different online and -off, a business whose business name is not the same from one employee bio to another.

I’ve never seen a worse (or, I suppose, better) example of this kind of sloppy writing than I saw yesterday on behalf of a company called Schoox, a company that—get this—provides online training for many different industries. The writing itself is pretty awful, and that’s no big surprise: these people can’t even figure out the name of their business, so why expect them to know how to spell!

Here’s how its name (a stupid, made-up name) is spelled by its employees; notice that a couple of sentences contain other misspelled words in the same sentence:

Spelling #1: My goal in Schoox is to create a delightful, meaningful mobile experience putting people first nad making learning a pleasure

Spelling #2: Every problem has a solution, here in schoox we find it and solve it via cooperatation, communication and fun.

Spelling #3: Working at SchooX provides an awesome environment with great people that changes the way people learn.

And here’s how BNI International, an entity that doesn’t have any employees (you heard me) who can write their way out of a paper sack, spells Schoox:

Spelling #4: Your registration has been confirmed. Please click here to enter schooX

Since neither the employees nor its customers knew how to spell its name, I went on to its “legal page” and discovered that the name seems to contain an uppercase “S” and then lowercase for the rest: Schoox.

This kind of top-to-bottom confusion about something as basic as how to represent the name of a company in print is less than impressive, and, for a company that claims to be focused on helping other people learn, it’s laughable.

Looks to me like Schoox needs some schoolin’, which makes its online offerings…suspect.

How to punctuate with parentheses, Part I.

Hey, this is easy. Parentheses are used to create an aside to the reader, and are less of a break than dashes, but more profound than the break created by a comma or commas. And, unlike commas or dashes, parentheses only come in pairs. Though the decision whether or not to use parentheses can be a judgement call, with practice you begin to see which of those marks—commas, parentheses, or dashes—is most correct. There are basically three different ways to punctuate with parentheses.

Let’s take the easiest use first, which is an independent clause inside a pair of parentheses, by which I mean a full sentence that is by itself inside parentheses but not inside another sentence. (Put another way, this “full sentence” offers ancillary information—an aside, if you will, to your reader—that is not part of another sentence.) Material inside parentheses in stand-alone information must be a full sentence.

Okay, that was my example, the full sentence inside parentheses. Note that the first sentence has its own period, and then the second sentence, the parenthetical sentence that follows 1) starts with a capital letter, and 2) the period is inside the second parenthesis. These are two separate sentences. Do you see it?

Let’s look at the second example, which happens when the parenthetical information (which may or may not be a complete sentence) is part of another sentence.

Again, that’s my example (using a dependent clause, i.e., not a full sentence). Here the parenthetical information is completely inside another sentence. You kick off that information with a lowercase letter and no punctuation inside the second parenthesis.

So this example is incorrect:

How do you WP? (where do you work, listen to music, require a cup of coffee?)

Why? Because these aren’t two separate sentences. This information should look like this:

How do you WP (where do you work, listen to music, require a cup of coffee)?

Do you see how I removed the first question mark and then took the second one outside the second parenthesis? Now we have one full sentence with proper punctuation.

This next would also be correct, because I just made the parenthetical information a full sentence:

How do you WP? (For example, where do you work, listen to music, or require a cup of coffee?)

And here’s my third example, which happens when the parenthetical information comes at the end of the main sentence:

Again, that’s my example (using a dependent clause, i.e., not a full sentence).

The rule is that your dependent clause starts with a lowercase letter and your end punctuation is the period for the main clause, and that is placed outside the parenthesis.  The interior punctuation  of the parenthetical information (if there is any) just sits there, just like you want it.

Stay tuned for the less common, but still important, punctuation issues that come up using parentheses.

Editing: Why bother?

Gee, why bother to breathe?

When you use your language with authority, then by gosh and by golly, you look like an authority. With authority comes credibility, and with credibility comes that most important coin: trust.

A couple of weeks ago, I took my car to a car wrapping service to get a quote. Tooling around Sarasota with “EditNATION.com” emblazoned on all four sides of my Honda (not the Porsche!!) is like an editor’s wet dream because a) everybody needs an editor, and b) no one knows how to find a good one. In fact, I liked the slogan “…because everybody needs an editor” so much, I got the .com and made it my tag line. (One of my tag lines, anyway, because I have a couple, depending on the audience: “…because good writing makes you money” for business-related projects and “…because good writing makes you look smart” for individuals.)

So the guy snapped pictures of the Honda and a couple of days later back came the mock up, with a tag line that read “…because everybody need an editor.”

Lemme ask you a question: Do you think that business got my business? Do you? Not taking those, what?, three seconds? four seconds? to review my mock up cost that business a thousand or so bucks. That’s $250 per second.

Do the math, everyone. Good writing makes you money, and bad writing costs. It’s just dollars and common sense.