10 blogs I can’t live without–Writer’s edition

You’ll learn the names of some useful resources for writers in this post. But first I must tell you why writing this blog post was so hard for me.

Blogs? What blogs?
“10 blogs I can’t live without” is a topic that participants in the WordCount Blogathon are supposed to post about on May 10. When I read the topic I thought “Blogs? What blogs?” I simply don’t consume blogs as blogs. I’m more likely to catch my favorite bloggers on Twitter. 

On the other hand, some of my readers probably don’t think of me as a blogger because they visit my blog through my monthly e-newsletter or my LinkedIn status updates. They might respond to the WordCount Blogathon assignment by saying, “I don’t read any blogs.”

People consume their online information in different ways. This  assignment reminded me that it’s important to make information available to readers in the format they prefer.

Online resources for writers 

Here are some of my favorite online resources for writers. They’re not all blogs. Nor have I limited my list to 10. 

B2B example 
If I were stranded on a desert island with such slow Internet connection speed that I could only read one e-newsletter or blog, I’d choose Michael Katz’s E-Newsletter on E-Newsletters. It has a charming style that sets a good example for business-to-business writers communicating. 

Attracting readers to your blog
Some blogs do a great job of showing how to write copy that captivates readers. When I began blogging I regularly read Brian Clark’s Copyblogger and Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger. More recently, I’ve found some good ideas on Nicholas Cardot’s SiteSketch. They’re worth reading, although I enjoyed them more when their creators wrote more of the content.  

Grammar, punctuation, usage 
When I’ve got a grammar, punctuation or word usage questions, sometimes I’ll just Google it. But I often don’t trust the answers I find. This is when I mosey on over to Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty’s Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing or the Purdue Online Writing Lab. By the way, remember how I mentioned delivering content the way that readers like to receive it? Fogarty has been podcasting her blog posts for awhile. She’s also on Twitter and Facebook. Plus she has published in old-fashioned print book format.  

Onlinestylebooks lets you search 42 style books at once. It’s a relatively new site, so I haven’t used it much.

For occasional tips, I follow APStylebook on Twitter. They’re the folks who officially changed the spelling from “Web site” to “website” earlier this year. As you may have noticed, I was ahead of them in using “website,” but I still respect them as a style setter.

Some other tweeps with useful style tips include EditorMark, Copyediting, and LawWriting. There are many more worth following. You’ll find them if you’re a Twitter devotee. 

Jon Winokur’s Twitter feed, AdviceToWriters, is great for inspiration. I like his book, also called Advice to Writers. 

For word geek humor–yes, there is such a thing–follow FakeAPStylebook on Twitter.

Receive a free 32-page e-book with client communications tips when you sign up for my free monthly newsletter.  

Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Tweets on talk by Harry Markopolos, Madoff whistleblower

Here are my tweets on today’s talk to the Boston Security Analysts Society by Harry Markopolos, the Madoff whistleblower and author of No One Would Listen.

  • “This case was a global tragedy” said Markopolos. “It was beyond evil.”
  • Madoff case is only in its 2nd innings, said Markopolos. There’ll be more arrests due to cooperating witnesses.
  • CFA# Code of Ethics is important to Markopolos. “It’s about investors and doing the right thing,” he said.
  • CPAs, is this true? CPA code of conduct lacks affirmative duty to report fraud.
  • Lesson #1 for Madoff victims: 0-25% is proper allocation to hedge funds, said Markopolos
  • Lesson #2 for Madoff victims: Never put all of your eggs in one basket, said Markopolos
  • Markopolos book is a good road map for conducting due diligence, said Sam Jones of the CFA Institute’s board of governors.

The next session of “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read: A Five-Week Teleclass for Financial Advisors” will start in April. For more information, sign up to receive “Information on upcoming classes, workshops, and other events” as well as my free monthly newsletter.
Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

My best posts for financial advisors who blog

If you’re a financial blogger who cares about well-written blog posts, you’ll find something useful in these posts.

By the way, if you’re struggling to crank out a steady stream of blog posts, “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read,” my 5-week teleclass for financial advisors, starts tomorrow, Feb. 25.

Thank you, Boston Women in Finance, for your feedback on my writing workshop

Boston Women in Finance gave me great feedback on my workshop “How to Write What People Will Read About Investments.” Before I share some their feedback with you, I’d like to thank all of the participants. Your energetic participation made it a very enjoyable workshop for me, too.

Here are some participant comments.

  •  “A very practical workshop! You’ll get tips you’ll use as soon as you return to the office.
  • “I truly learned a lot from this presentation. It was refreshing to have someone break down how to best reach people and to say it’s okay to write in simple short sentences.”
  • “It’s always good to hear these reminders to get you back to the basics of effective writing. This seminar was a great way to refocus.”
  • “The mapping technique was helpful. I will use this for brainstorming and helping with project plans and meetings.”
  • “Susan’s ‘how to’ approach packed dozens of indispensable tips into 1 1/2 hours. Incredible!”
  • “I believe the mapping exercise will help me organize my thoughts and overcome writer’s block and get past the first blank page or screen.”

Some of you said that you would prefer “More time; more opportunity for individual exercises.” I’m interested in creating longer, customized training sessions for corporate clients that would allow more interaction. I’m also for hire to present the one-and-one-half hour version I delivered to Boston Women in Finance.

Six ways to stop sending emails with errors

Everybody sends occasional emails with typos and punctuation mistakes. But some emails are more important than others. When you want to make your email perfect, follow these rules. 

1. Print out your email.
Somehow it’s easier to see errors on paper. 

2. Read it out loud.
This is good for catching missing words that your mind might otherwise fill in.Otherwise, you often see what you expect to see.

3. Get someone else to proofread it.
It’s easier for a third party to catch your errors. 

4. Let it sit overnight.
When you read with fresh eyes, you’re more likely to catch errors. 

5. Use a spell-checking program.
If your email program doesn’t support spell-checking, copy the email into your word-processing program, so you can check it there. However, remember that spell-checkers aren’t foolproof. 

6. Create a checklist of common errors.

Using a checklist makes you slow down and, so you’re more likely to catch the errors highlighted on the checklist. For example, let’s say you’re confused about “How to punctuate bullet-pointed lists.” Add to your checklist: “check bullet point punctuation rules” with a link to the rules. 

Have you got other suggestions for keeping emails error-free? Please share them in the Comments section.

Proper usage of periods: One space or two?

As a dinosaur who wrote the first chapters of her Ph.D. dissertation on a manual typewriter, I grew up leaving two spaces after every period. But times have changed, and today I leave only one space between a period and the new sentence that follows it.

The two spaces made sense when we used typewriters with monospacing, as Grammar Girl explains in “How many spaces after a period?” But now that we’ve switched to proportional fonts, one space has become the standard.

If you feel passionately that we should use two spaces, you’ve got company, as you’ll see in “How Many Spaces After a Period: One or Two?

More posts about punctuation:
* How to punctuate bullet-pointed lists
* Bloggers’ top two punctuation mistakes

Image courtesy of Just2shutter at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

How to punctuate bullet-pointed lists

Have you ever used a bullet-pointed list in a memo, report or PowerPoint presentation? Are you punctuating your lists correctly? Or maybe you’re not as compulsive as I am about these picky points.

Anyway, here’s what one reference book, The Grammar Bible, says:

If a sentence follows the bullet, place a period at the end. Words and phrases that follow bullets need no ending punctuation. It is never necessary to place the conjunction and before the last item in a bulleted list.



The following asset classes are used:

  • Large-cap equities,
  • Small-cap equities, and
  • U.S. Treasuries


The following asset classes are used:

  • Large-cap equities
  • Small-cap equities
  • U.S. Treasuries

Does this make sense? If it doesn’t, then post a comment with a sample bullet pointed-list. I’ll give you my suggestion on how to punctuate it.



Note: This post was revised for a grammar mistake on August 29, 2012, and expanded on May 26, 2014.

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Bloggers’ top two punctuation mistakes

“Financial blogging has it’s challenges”, said the copywriter. 

If you identified the errors in the sentence above, you probably aren’t making bloggers’ two most common punctuation mistakes. These mistakes aren’t confined to blogs. I see them in every kind of financial and personal communication. 

It’s vs. its

“It’s” is a whopping exception to the rule that you form the possessive by adding an apostrophe and the letter s.

“The performance of the mutual fund” becomes “the mutual fund’s performance,” but “the performance of it” becomes “its performance,” with no apostrophe.

“Apostrophes should not be used with possessive pronouns because possessive pronouns already show possession,” as explained by the Online Writing Center at Purdue University. So don’t add an apostrophe to “yours,” “ours,” “his,” “hers,” or “theirs.”

Remember: “it’s” always means “it is.”
Quotation marks and misplaced punctuation
Punctuation generally belongs inside the closing quotation mark. So my opening sentence should be punctuated like this: “Financial blogging has its challenges,” said the copywriter. 

The Associated Press Stylebook puts the rules like this:
1. “The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks.”
2. “The dash, the semicolon, the question mark and the exclamation point go within the quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence.”
The Stylebook is talking about punctuation at the end, not the beginning, of a quotation.

However, if you’re writing for a British or Canadian audience rather than a U.S. audience, punctuation goes outside the quotation marks. Grammar Girl says, “Printers found that the periods and commas were more stable when they were placed inside closing quotation marks, so that’s the way they started doing it,” according to “Why are British English and American English different?” Grammar Girl seems to agree with my friend who thinks the British practice is more logical. Still, punctuation-conscious Americans wince when you flout the American way. 

The bottom line
Earlier this year I asked my newsletter readers “Do grammar or punctuation errors affect the writer’s credibility in your eyes?”

0%   No, I don’t notice errors
2%   No, I don’t care
22%  Yes, but I forgive small errors, especially in social networking posts
75%  Yes, it generally hurts my opinion

Only 2% of respondents answered “No.” That sends a strong message about the impact that errors have on your readers.

So, please

  • Distinguish between “it’s” and “its.”
  • Always put your commas and periods inside your closing quotation marks.


Do you have a question about these punctuation practices? Ask it in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do your grammar and punctuation affect your credibility?

I believe that bad grammar and punctuation sabotage the credibility of the writer.  The same goes for the company that the writer represents.

For me, bad grammar and punctuation suggest a lack of education and attention to detail. I wonder if the writer’s professional work displays similar weaknesses. Plus, I’m annoyed if poor writing makes me work harder to grasp the point the writer was trying to convey.

Marketing materials–especially long-lived forms such as websites and brochures–should hit high standards to put the firm’s best foot forward.

I’m more forgiving of typos in quickly created, ephemeral communications, such as tweets on Twitter. I’m guilty of typos there and on my blog.

What about you? Does bad grammar and punctuation detract from your opinion of writers and their companies? 
Please answer the poll in the right-hand column of my blog. Also, feel free to leave your comment below.

I’ll report on the poll results in a future issue of my newsletter. The poll will run until June 2009.


Jan. 20, 2013 note: I updated the title of this post after an anonymous commenter pointed out my grammatical mistake.