The Grammar Factor: online board paper course, v. for versus, punctuation with viz.

By Mary Morel, September 2016

Online board paper courses

I’m creating two new online courses, which will be available in October:

  • Taming Templates: How to use your board templates well
  • Write to Govern: How to write an effective board paper

These courses are based on my book, Write to Govern, and the work I’ve done with many organisations in Australia and New Zealand to improve the quality of their board papers.

Read some information about these courses.

Email me if you’d like to know when these courses go live.

Reader’s comment: v. for versus

‘A quick observation about versus, vs. and vs usage in the U.S.: we sometimes use v. An example is the famous U.S. Supreme Court case known as “Rowe v. Wade.” Maybe this is a convention for court cases, although another famous one is known as “Brown vs. Board of Education,” but not “Brown v. Board of Education.”

‘And about the use of a full stop (we say “period,” not “full stop”) after abbreviations like Mr., Dr., Prof., etc. I think this practice is beginning to fall out of favor here. I use “Prof,” not “Prof.,” so that’s a little bit of progress!’

My response

In The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, Pam Peters says: ‘In the titles of law suits, versus is regularly abbreviated to v. British style has it in roman according to Copy-editing (1992), whereas the Chicago Manual (2003) prefers italics – in keeping with the names on either side. In both British and American style, v. normally appears with a stop.

Reader’s question

Punctuation with viz.

Question: What is the correct punctuation for viz.?

Response: There doesn’t seem to be agreement about the comma usage.   The main point of his speech, viz. that our attitude was in fact harmful, was not understood. (Wikipedia example) The main point of his speech, viz., that our attitude was in fact harmful, was not understood.

But why use viz.? Why not say ‘namely’?

My recent podcasts

Listen to my podcasts with:

  • Ken Marshman, chair of REST Industry Super about effective board papers. He talks about how board papers build trust between boards and management.
  • Davina Stanley about structured thinking and how writers can use these techniques when writing board papers (link to come).

Subscribe to my podcasts on iTunes or Stitcher Radio.

I plan to include most of my podcasts in my online courses so they will be publicly available for only a short period.

My recent blogs

Can you use criteria and data with a singular verb?
Microsoft Word accepts data as correct spelling when used in the singular and the Macquarie Dictionary says: ‘The connection between data the plural and datum the singular has been almost completely broken, so that while datum survives in such compounds as datum point, it does not have the frequency of use that data has.’

Many writers, knowing its Latin origins, insist that data must take a plural verb. Read more.

Writing about risk in a board paper
Directors care about risk because if things go wrong, the consequences can be dramatic and long-lasting. Just think about the impact of the Australian census website crashing on census night, and the fallout from VW’s emission failure.

All organisations share some risks in common, such as people, safety, financial, and reputation, but some risks, such as cyber risk, are more industry-specific. A very broad definition is that risk is the ‘effect of uncertainty on objectives’. Read more

Interesting stuff about writing

Writing Without Bullsh*t: An Interview with Josh Bernoff
Josh Bernoff is the author of Writing Without Bullshit: Boost Your Career by Saying What You Mean.

He’s also written an article for The Harvard Business Review on how bad writing is destroying your company’s productivity.

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content
I’ve just ordered this book by Ann Handley, on the recommendation of a colleague, and am looking forward to reading it. (I read novels on Kindle, but don’t like reading non-fiction on a Kindle.)

Why the green great dragon can’t exist
Do you know what rules apply to the order of adjectives? (This article went viral!)

The insidious imps of writing
Many of us put off writing even if we enjoy it. What are your procrastination tricks?

Tenants’ complaints
Do you think these tenants’ complaints are for real? They include: ‘It’s the dog’s mess that I find hard to swallow’.

Quote of the month

‘Assume the reader knows nothing. But don’t assume the reader is stupid.’

US author Ann Handley


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