A Guide to Business Grammar, by Dave Barry
STANDARD FORMAT FOR THE BUSINESS MEMO
1. ALWAYS START BY SAYING THAT YOU HAVE RECEIVED SOMETHING, AND ARE ENCLOSING SOMETHING. These can be the same thing. For example, you could say: "I have received your memo of the 14th, and am enclosing it." Or they can be two different things: "I have received a letter from my mother, and am enclosing a photograph of the largest-known domestically grown sugar beet." As you can see, these things need have nothing to do with each other, or with the point of the memorandum. They are in your memo solely to honor an ancient business tradition, the Tradition of Receiving and Enclosing, which would be a shame to lose.
2. STATE THAT SOMETHING HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO YOUR ATTENTION. Never state who brought it. It can be virtually any random fact whatsoever. For example, you might say: "It has been brought to my attention that on the 17th of February, Accounts Receivable notified Collections of a prior past-due balance of $5,878.23 in the account of Whelk, Stoat, and Mandible, Inc." Ideally, your reader will have nothing to do with any of this, but he will think he should, or else why would you go to all this trouble to tell him? Also, he will get the feeling you must be a fairly plugged-in individual, to have this kind of thing brought to your attention.
3. STATE THAT SOMETHING IS YOUR UNDERSTANDING. This statement should be firm, vaguely disapproving, and virtually impossible to understand. A good standard one is: "It is my understanding that this was to be ascertained in advance of any further action, pending review."
4. END WITH A STRONG CLOSING LINE. It should leave the reader with a definite feeling that he or she is expected to take some kind of action. For example: "Unless we receive a specific and detailed proposal from you by the 14th, we intend to go ahead and implant the device in Meredith."
The beauty of this basic memo format is that it can even be adapted for sending personalized communications to your subordinates ("It has come to my attention that your wife, Edna, is dead.").
THE BASIC RULES OF BUSINESS GRAMMAR
1. USE THE WORD "TRANSPIRE" A LOT.
- Wrong: The dog barked.
- Right: What transpired was, the dog barked.
- Even Better: A barking of the dog transpired.
2. ALSO USE "PARAMETER."
- Wrong: Employees should not throw paper towels into the toilet.
- Right: Employees should not throw paper towels into the parameters of the toilet.
3. ALWAYS FOLLOW THE PHRASE "TED AND" WITH THE WORD "MYSELF."
- Wrong: Ted and I think the pump broke.
- Right: Ted and myself think the pump broke.
- Even better: It is the opinion of Ted and myself that a breakage of the pump transpired.
4. IF SOMETHING IS FOLLOWING SOMETHING ELSE, ALWAYS LET THE READER KNOW IN ADVANCE VIA THE WORDS: "THE FOLLOWING."
- Wrong: We opened up the pump and found a dead bat.
- Right: We opened up the pump and found the following: a dead bat.
5. ALWAYS STRESS THAT WHEN YOU TOLD SOMEBODY SOMETHING, YOU DID IT VERBALLY.
- Wrong: I told him.
- Right: I told him verbally.
6. NEVER SPLIT AN INFINITIVE. An infinitive is a phrase that has a "to" at the beginning, such as "Today, I am going to start my diet." You should not split such a phrase with another word, as in "Today, I am definitely going to start my diet," because it makes you sound insecure about it. It sounds like you know darned well you'll be hitting the pecan fudge before sundown.
7. NEVER END A SENTENCE WITH A PREPOSTION. Prepositions are words like "with," "into," "on," "off," "exacerbate," etc. The reason you should never end a sentence with one is that you would be violating a rule of grammar.
- Wrong: Youse better be here with the ransom money, on account we don't want to have to hack nobody's limbs off.
- Right: ... on account we don't want to have to hack off nobody's limbs.
- Even better: ... on account we don't want to have to hack off nobody's limbs with a chain saw.
8. AVOID DANGLING PARTICIPLES. A participle is the letters "ing" at the end of words like "extenuating." You want to avoid having it "dangle" down and disrupt the sentence underneath:
There appear to be some extenuati circumstances. n Ted and myself feel that these g Hey! Get that participle out of here!!