However, introductory ESL offer, advisor/adviser

However – meanings and punctuation
The word however is overused in business writing and the punctuation that goes with it is often incorrect.

Part of the confusion occurs because of the different meanings of however. A couple of common meanings are ‘in spite of’ and ‘in whatever way’.

She did, however, manage to pass her exam.

However in this sentence means ‘in spite of something previously mentioned’ and is separated by commas because it provides extra information that could be deleted and the sentence would still make sense. (She did manage to pass the exam.)

I will help however I can.

However in this sentence means ‘in whatever way’ and because the word is essential to the meaning of the sentence, you don’t need commas.

These usages are straightforward and don’t usually cause any problems. It is when we use however to mean ‘yet’, ‘but’ or ‘nevertheless’ that problems arise.

Read more at my grammar blog:

Write English (ESL) – introductory offer

To celebrate the launch of Write English (, an online program for overseas-born professionals, I’m offering this program at half price until the end of September 2012. Normally $189 GST incl, the price is now $94.50 GST incl.

This program is written by Mette Granvik, herself an overseas-born professional with many years of teaching experience. It covers a wide range of topics, including business etiquette, emails, letters, grammar (prepositions, agreement, tenses), and even writing about financial information and trends.

If you or your colleagues wish to take advantage of this offer, use the promotional code ‘owt010dbi’ when registering at

The discount will show on the PayPal payment page.

Readers’ questions and comments

Reader’s question: Should a company name take a singular verb?

Answer: Yes, a company takes a singular verb because it is a single entity that exists independently of the individuals who work there.

Even though not grammatically consistent, we often start the next paragraph with ‘They’ rather than ‘It’ because we know we are now talking about people within the company.

ABC is hiring. They are looking for web designers…

Who decides?
A reader emailed that she had met a descendant of Charles Dickens who insisted that Charles Dickens’s name should not take an extra ‘s’ when possessive (Dickens’ books, not Dickens’s books) and that everyone should respect that style.

I don’t think styles quite work like that! I agree that whether you add an extra ‘s’ with the possessive use of names ending in ‘s’ is a style choice, but it is not a choice based on that particular person’s preference. (My daughter has a name ending in ‘s’ – I add an extra ‘s’ with the possessive, but she doesn’t. I don’t intend changing my style to suit her preference.)

Reader’s question: Which is correct: adviser or advisor?

Answer: Both are acceptable. Some people prefer adviser because adding -er is the more common word ending (e.g. helper, trader). But there are plenty of exceptions (editor, author, doctor).

I have noticed a trend for advisor being used for job titles, e.g. financial advisor (but financial adviser is also used).

As with all words that can be used interchangeably (e.g. moneys/monies), consistency matters whatever your choice is.

I am not sure it makes any difference to modern usage, but adviser is older than advisoradviser dates back to the 17th century, whereas advisor was first recorded just before 1900.

Articles and a poem

Zombie nouns cannibalise active verbs
An article in The New York Times talks about how nominalisations (noun form of verbs) undermine the authority of your writing. Take this example:

The proliferation of nominalisations in a discursive formation may be an indication of a tendency toward pomposity and abstraction. (seven nominalisations)

Rewritten with one nominalisation, this sentence becomes:

Writers who overload their sentences with nominalisations tend to sound pompous and abstract.

Read the article at:

Is poor grammar affecting your career?
I was quoted in a recent article in the Herald Sun about poor grammar and spelling affecting your career, your business and how you’re perceived as a professional. You can read the article here:

The very model of an amateur grammarian
(Sent by a reader with apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan)

I am the very model of an amateur grammarian
I have a little knowledge and I am authoritarian
But I make no apology for being doctrinarian
We must not plummet to the verbal depths of the barbarian

I’d sooner break my heart in two than sunder an infinitive
And I’d disown my closest family within a minute if
They dared to place a preposition at a sentence terminus
Or sully the Queen’s English with neologisms verminous

I know that ‘soon’ and not ‘right now’ is the true sense of ‘presently’
I’m happy to correct you and I do it oh so pleasantly
I’m not a grammar Nazi; I’m just a linguistic Aryan
I am the very model of an amateur grammarian

I’m sure people appreciate my pointing out their grammar gaffes
And sorting out their sentences and crossing out their paragraphs
When you crusade for good English, it’s not all doom and gloom you sow
The secret of success is: it’s not who you know; it’s whom you know

The standards of our language are declining almost every day
Down from a peak in 18– or 19– I think – well, anyway
Pop music, TV, blogs and texting are inflicting ravages
Upon English and unchecked, this will turn us into savages

I fear that sloppy language is a sign of immorality
For breaking rules of grammar is akin to criminality
So curse those trendy linguists, lexicographers and anyone
Who shuns the model English of the amateur grammarian

Conjunctions at the openings of sentences are sickening
I wish that the decline of the subjunctive were not quickening
And that more people knew the proper meaning of ‘anticipate’
Of ‘fulsome’ and ‘enormity’, ‘fortuitous’ and ‘decimate’

I learned these rules at school and of correctness they’re my surety
I cling to them for safety despite having reached maturity
Some say that language changes, but good English is immutable
And so much common usage now is deeply disreputable

My pedantry’s demanding but I try not to feel bitter at
The fact that everyone I meet is borderline illiterate
When all around are wrong then I am proud to be contrarian
I am the very model of an amateur grammarian



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