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Real Words that Work

By Patricia Davies, President, Patricia Davies Communications
Here’s the thing . . . 
The definition for “thing” takes up 28 lines in the Gage Canadian Dictionary, not including “thingamabob” and “thingamajig.” It’s an all-purpose word that means nothing and everything, making it useful for casual conversations but not clear or persuasive in written communication. 
“Would you like to go ahead with the thing we discussed yesterday?”
E-mail from Systems Manager to Director of an IT division 
“One thing that makes organizations dysfunctional is that bosses so often lack self-awareness.”
Newsletter from an executive sales coach
You can frequently delete “thing” and make the sentence more direct. Or you can substitute a more definite word. Your colleagues might not remember the details of all their conversations and need to know clearly what they are approving.
Can we proceed with the software change for System B that we discussed yesterday?
Dysfunctional organizations often contain bosses who aren’t aware their actions affect others.
GPS (Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling) Tips
In response to reader requests, this column will occasionally include hints on grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS).
You probably learned long ago never to start a sentence with “and” or “but”. That rule is a myth not supported by any major grammar guides. No one is even quite sure where the ban originated. But grammarians also add the warning to use the construction sparingly. Many people think it is too casual for business writing and will staunchly defend crossing the offending words out. 
Patricia Davies is an award-winning writer and editor and an Endorsed Education Provider (EEP™) with IIBA. Do you have a writing question? Please email to and we’ll try to address it in a future column or Webinar.